Family Stress After Disasters

— Written By Kim Allen and last updated by
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Families who weather a particularly bad storm are likely to experience stress. Anytime there is an undesired change, there is potential for stress. When children are involved, it is important that parents understand the effects of such stress and to know what they can do to help their family cope.

Emotional reactions differ from person to person, depending on their experiences and temperament, and depending on the severity of the storm. Some may feel as though a storm was a traumatic event, while others might see it as much less significant. For children, any change can be stressful, especially prolonged changes.

Parents can tell a lot about their child’s mental wellness by observing their behavior.

Signs of stress may include:

  • Changes of habits (eating, sleeping, anything out of the ordinary)
  • Regressive behaviors (starts wetting bed again, sucking thumb)
  • Sleeplessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Poor eye contact
  • Fidgeting

You can help your children cope with stress by:

  • Reassuring them; give them extra hugs and be available to them
  • Trying to have fun and remain positive. While we cannot control the weather, we can control our reaction to it.
  • Talking about feelings, normalizing the situation, and LISTENING.  Giving children permission to talk about the stressful events can help them process and understand what they are feeling.
  • Talking about what is happening, and what is expected to happen. We may not know when the electricity will be turned on again, but we can explain that the situation is temporary and reassure children that they are safe.Image of child crying
  • Remaining consistent.  Keeping a routine helps children feel that they are supported and safe, so let them know what is going to happen, and stick to a schedule whenever possible.
  • Involving children in finding solutions.  When children are feeling irritable, it can be comforting for them to help in the decision-making process. Perhaps they can decide which game to play or decide which food to eat.
  • Asking for help when you need it.  Many families find situations such as these a time to reach out to neighbors and their communities. If you need help, reach out and ask for it.

Take Care of Yourself

It is much easier to be a supportive parent when we take time for ourselves. This includes getting plenty of sleep, exercise, and eating well. This is the time to bond with those around you. Giving and receiving help will assist everyone in coping with a difficult situation.