Addressing Natural Disasters with Children
By Dr. Cheryl Andaya
9 Things to Keep Your Child Calm During a Pending Storm
Incoming Hurricane Lane worried several children in the state. Here are a few suggestions to help keep your children calm.
- Be a role model. Your children are watching your reactions so if you’re highly anxious, you need to chill! Your child will feed off your energy and watch your reaction. Do you need to take deep breaths to calm yourself? Yoga helps? Prayer? Whatever you need to do, do it and let your child see what you’re doing to keep yourself calm, and then make sure you remain calm around your child so you don’t increase their anxiety.
- Turn the news off, if your child is highly anxious, keep the news off. Not good to have the news playing in the background…even if you think your child is busy doing something else. If you have a highly anxious child, turn the news off. I used headphones to keep the news away from my youngest who was getting worried. The media love to use that suspenseful music and words as they’re describing what to expect. Good to have the info, but not good for anxiety.
- Let them ask questions. My kiddo was quiet (unusual for him as he loves to talk) so I asked him if he was worried about the hurricane. He nodded. I asked what worried him. He told me that the wind would throw cars around. Ummm, yeah. No wonder he’s worried. I told him that it’s pretty unlikely. We talked about it and I tried to correct any other exaggerations he had. Gotta love their imagination but it also can make matters worse for them. Try to correct any misperceptions they have. They’re probably thinking Hollywood mahem.
- Discuss as a family. Get family members together to make the plan. Let everyone have a turn with asking questions. Stay calm and collected.
- Empower them by letting them help with preparations. We reviewed our hurricane safety list and went around getting all the things prepared. This helped reassure him that we have all that we need. Let your child lead the process by having him/her tell YOU what to get.
- Reinforce the safety. We discussed the strength of our house, where we could go in the house if winds become too strong and reassured him that we are doing everything to keep our family safe.
- We then provided distractions for the children. This can be playing board games, helping with house chores, crafting, and other activities that would keep their mind off what’s going on. I had my little lego fanatic build me a lego pencil holder for my office. That kept him busy for a couple hours which helped him tremendously…and I got a cool pencil holder. 😁
- Maintain routines as much as possible. We kept to the daily routine with morning routines, homework, night routine, and same bedtime. Changes in routine would add to stress and unease for some children.
- Cuddles and hugs. Providing extra hugs can also help your child feel safer.
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I’m a mother and a Clinical Psychologist who works with children and their families as well as individuals reaching for their goals. Born and raised in Hawaii, I embrace diversity and help individuals find their strengths.