Preparing for a hurricane can be a stressful ordeal. You need to gather supplies, create a safety plan, and even consider the option of evacuation. Sometimes when we are busy providing for our physical needs we put aside our emotional ones. Children are just beginning to explore their emotions and can become easily overwhelmed during stressful events. Here are some steps to take in order to keep your child calm and prepared for the hurricane. It is imperative that your sense of calm remain consistent throughout the process. Children first and foremost take their reaction cues from their parents.
Step one: It is important for children to understand hurricanes and events related to a hurricane landfall in order to help them cope with their reactions and feelings to a storm and its aftermath. Help your child understand what a hurricane is and what they may expect from a strong storm (ie loud strong winds, heavy rain, power loss). Meteorological or “weather” terms can also be confusing to adults as well as children. It will help if your child understands some hurricane-related terms that may be prominent in the media.
Step two: Allow them to be a part of any safety planning. Communicate about the supplies that your family may need and allow the children to make suggestions of their own. You will be in charge of providing extra water, food, batteries, first aid kit, and basic necessities. Your child may be in charge of providing quiet games if the power goes out, gathering favorite snacks, or packing some of their special things in case of an evacuation. Also allowing children to have their own flashlight will return some sense of control and safety. Discuss and safety planning with them, such as what room in the house is safest if the storm worsens, while also reaffirming that you’ll be with them through the storm.
Step Three: People cope with their reactions to stressful events in many ways. You and your child have to find ways that work best for each of you. Some ways of coping are more effective than others. For example, some positive ways to cope with stressful events include talking about how you feel, solving problems, trying to remain calm, and trying to look at the positive side of things. Feelings of anxiety, frustration, anger, and fear are common reactions to a hurricane. Other reactions such as nightmares and difficulty sleeping are common as well. It is normal for children and adults to experience a variety of stress reactions after going through a traumatic event.
In general, fears and worries are normal. However, if they interfere with your child’s activities (e.g. such as keeping them from going to school, playing with friends, & sleeping through the night), then your child will need more help in dealing with them. We have trained counselors on staff to help your children cope with any anxiety and stressors that a hurricane can bring. Remember stay safe and take care of your needs, even the emotional ones. Please call for a free consultation with of our Orlando child counselors– Jessica Conaway, Amy Smith or Juliana Ochoa. 407-355-7378
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