Helping children navigate through emotional aftermath of hurricane Harvey

Helping children navigate through emotional aftermath of hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey has caused mass destruction in the past few weeks, rendering thousands of people homeless and desolate. While the human suffering caused by extensive flooding continues to unfold, one of the vulnerable sections highly afflicted by this natural catastrophe is the young and impressionable children. In times of uncertain future, children are prone to develop high levels of anxiety which prompts them to seek answers to their questions like, “what has happened?”, “when will we re-enter our homes?” when will I go back to school?” and so on.

Adults can re-assure their kids that everything will soon fall into place and that they are in the safe custody of their loved ones. Here are some of the ways for an adult to deal with children in times of grave destruction and uncertainties.

Re-assuring children

It is important to have a one-to-one talk with the children and assure them that regardless of the circumstances with which the family might be dealing with currently, the adults will find a way to find a way back to normalcy. Children need to be assured that they are loved and cared for and need not worry.

Recounting adventure stories

The adults can use this time constructively in recounting adventure stories of Harry Potter, The Famous Five and other such series to the children so that they learn to be resilient. They can remain hopeful that they are not alone in their struggle knowing that even epic heroes met the challenges.

Reframing the experience

In the 1997 movie “Life is beautiful,” the protagonist uses his imagination in explaining to his son that they were actually in an interesting game but, in reality, they were surrounded by Nazi camps. In a similar way, adults can greatly mitigate children’s anxiety by telling them that they are all playing a game in which the victorious person would be the one who could live gracefully even in the absence of power and home. Children must be explained that life is much more meaningful than the comforts and it is the love and solidarity that makes up for a fulfilling life.

Avoiding watching TV with children

It is natural for adults to watch latest updates regarding the hurricane and the rehabilitation progress; however, one must avoid watching such news in front of children. The young minds are quick to react to disturbing videos and images and they can be haunted by memories for a long time. This can increase their risk of falling prey to mental health disorders such as an anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Reach out for support

The older adults of a family must act as role models for their children by offering help to the victims. Children learn from elders’ coping mechanisms and imbibe the same surviving skills. Children should be encouraged to help with small chores and appreciated for their efforts. Parents and families should remain watchful of their children’s behavior to check if they are fearful, shell-shocked, morbidly anxious, or  completely uninterested and withdrawn. It is important to address their fears and keep the communication strong. In case the symptoms persist, support from a mental health professional should be immediately taken.

If you or a loved one is dealing with stress or anxiety, the Florida Helpline for Anxiety can help you find the best anxiety treatment centers in Florida offering customized therapeutic intervention plans. Call us at our 24/7 helpline 855-920-9834 or chat online with one of our representatives to know more.

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