Traumatic events and natural disasters have a significant impact on all of our lives but with a few easy steps you can be better prepared for these situations. We took some advice from Patrick Mularioni, M.D., at John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Sandra Bailey, Ph.D. CFLE, Family & Human Development Specialist, on helping parents help their children overcome the stress, disruption and anxiety created from events such as hurricanes, loss of loved ones or car accidents. Here are some ways to help your child through this process:
1. Take the time to talk
Mularioni encourages parents to sit down and have a conversation with their children to make sure they understand what happened. “As children go back to school, they are likely to share stories with friends about their experience and this may increase stress and anxiety having to hear about the event again,” says Mularioni.
2. Listen to your child
Allow her to open up and express what she feeling. Reassurance is vital. Reassure him you love him; he is safe and everything he is feeling is normal. Encourage your children to express themselves in whichever way is appropriate for them. Drawing, writing and painting are all different forms and outlets for expression. “It is important to let your child know that you are listening,” says Bailey. “Not telling them how to feel, but simply saying that you understand how they feel.”
3. Limit television and news coverage
Overexposure of the traumatic event can increase a child’s stress and anxiety. Parents should be mindful of the conversations they are having and the news they are watching when children are around. Try watching the television and listening to the news when the children are in bed or are occupied. Bailey suggests “explaining what is seen on the news so children can understand the scope of the disaster in comparison to their lives.”
4. Maintain daily routines
Although this may be difficult, try and follow your usual daily routines as much as possible. Routines help provide a sense of stability and security for children. “Encourage your child to get up in the mornings at his or her regular time” says Bailey. “Eat as close as possible to your regular schedule.” For tips on creating and getting a routine established for your kids, check out top 5 tips for creating a back to school routine.
5. Be proactive and active
Play games, go for a walk, read a book, take the initiative to help keep your child active. Not only will this activity keep children occupied, it will help keep their minds off the current situation.
These are just a few of many tips on how to help your child through this process. For those looking for additional resources, we recommend “Hurricane” by David Wiesner, Montana State University's article on helping children cope after a natural disaster and John Hopkins Patrick Mularioni's article on Hurricane Irma. We hope you won’t need to utilize these tips in the near future but hopefully these help you feel more prepared.Posted 9/27/17