Coping After A Hurricane

Surviving a hurricane can cause severe emotional strain on survivors. Intense feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness, and loss can be overwhelming following a devasting event. These feelings are perfectly normal, but acknowledging them can help you recover. Accepting help from community programs and resources may be necessary and beneficial. Children and older adults' emotional states are of particular concern in the aftermath of disasters. Even individuals who experience an emergency "second hand" through exposure to extensive media coverage can be adversely affected.

Contact local faith-based organizations, voluntary agencies, or professional counselors for mental help. Additionally, FEMA and state and local governments of the affected area may provide crisis counseling assistance.

You may be able to minimize the emotional and traumatic effects of a hurricane by taking action to prepare for a worst-case scenario.  


  •   Difficulty communicating thoughts.
  •   Difficulty sleeping.
  •   Trouble maintaining balance in their lives.
  •   Low threshold of frustration.
  •   Increased use of drugs/alcohol.
  •   Limited attention span.
  •   Poor work performance.
  •   Headaches/stomach problems.
  •   Tunnel vision/muffled hearing.
  •   Colds or flu-like symptoms.
  •   Disorientation or confusion.
  •   Difficulty concentrating.
  •   Reluctance to leave home.
  •   Depression, sadness.
  •   Feelings of hopelessness.
  •   Mood-swings and easy bouts of crying.
  •   Overwhelming guilt and self-doubt.
  •   Fear of crowds, strangers, or being alone.

Helping Children Cope After A Hurricane

Children's reactions are influenced by the behavior, thoughts, and feelings of adults. Adults should encourage children and adolescents to share their thoughts and feelings about the incident. Clarify misunderstandings about risk and danger by listening to children's concerns and answering questions. Maintain a sense of calm by validating children's fears and perceptions and discussing concrete plans for safety.

Listen to what the child is saying. If a young child asks questions about the event, answer them directly without the elaboration needed for an older child or adult. Some children are comforted by knowing more or less information than others; decide what level of information your particular child needs. If a child has difficulty expressing feelings, allow the child to draw a picture or tell a story of what happened. Try to understand what is causing anxieties and fears.

Be aware that after a disaster, children are most concerned that the event will happen again, someone close to them will be killed or injured, or they will be left separated from the family.


  • Personal contact is reassuring. Hug and touch your children.
  • Calmly provide factual information about the recent disaster and your recovery plans.
  • Encourage your children to talk about their feelings.
  • Spend extra time with your children, such as at bedtime.
  • Re-establish your daily routine for work, school, play, meals, and rest.
  • Involve your children by giving them specific chores to help them feel they are helping to restore family and community life.
  • Praise and recognize responsible behavior.
  • Understand that your children will have a range of reactions to disasters.
  • Encourage your children to help update your family's disaster plan.
If you created a reassuring environment by following the steps above, but your child continues to exhibit stress, it may be appropriate to talk to a professional.