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November 14th, 2012

After Superstorm Sandy: Super Thoughts to Help Kids

Superstorm Sandy caused widespread destruction in the Northeast. It also caused lots of anxiety before, during and after the storm. Some families still have no power and heat; some have a tree that damaged their home; some couldn’t get out of their house or apartment; some kids are safe but not staying with their parents. There are a few kids and families who are dealing with extreme trauma, such as the loss of their home, fires, or regrettably the loss of a family member.

We have seen disasters before. Clearly the first order of business is to get food, gas, heat and begin the lengthy process of re-building. Some parents may also be concerned with their children’s emotional reaction which can linger well after the immediate crisis. Kids may verbalize or think some of these thoughts:

• I thought something bad could happen to me or my parents.
• I was afraid that a tree would fall on our house and hurt us.
• I was worried about my dog. I was afraid for my cat.
• I don’t want to sleep in my bed. I’m scared to go back to school.
• I am really worried about the next big storm

If you are observing your child and feel that he or she is too anxious or frightened, here are some suggestions that may begin to help.

1. It’s OK to Be Scared: Lots of kids are afraid of feeling anxious because it makes them feel out of control. In fact, being a little scared of a very big storm helps people get prepared and make wise choices, like staying inside, buying extra food, and getting flashlights ready.
2. Routines Really Help: Kids may not want to go back to school or go back to bed at a reasonable time. Routines actually can help the healing process. Even homework can help! It’s a good distraction and can help kids feel more in charge of their life.
3. Strong Thoughts: Here are some strong thoughts that can help your child:
We will get through this.
We can help other people get through this.
People care about us and have helped us.
We were prepared and made smart decisions.
4. Minimize Visual Images: Repeated exposure to trauma, including re-playing visual images of destruction can heighten feelings of anxiety in children and teens. Make sure your child is engaged in other activities, such as playing games, reading and listening to music, instead of re-watching the news.
5. Connecting with Others: Helping others helps. Check on your neighbors and family members in times of crisis. It helps kids feel better too.
6. Honest Conversation: It’s important talk about the storm with your children as long as it is not the only topic of conversation. Conversations don’t have to be long. Kids may have lots of questions. If everyone is safe, it’s a good time to emphasize what’s truly important – family, safety, togetherness.

Here are other writings which may be of help during this tough time of recovery:
-A Tree is Blocking My Driveway and I’m Scared
-Storm Fears: Helping Kids with Weather Worries
-Helping Bereaved Children During the Holiday Season
-Emergency Relief Kits Build Resilience in Children and Teens