Coping After A Hurricane

Everyone who sees or experiences a hurricane is affected by it in some way. It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your family and close friends. Profound sadness, grief, and anger are normal reactions to an abnormal event. Acknowledging your feelings helps you recover. Focusing on your strengths and abilities helps you heal. Accepting help from community programs and resources is healthy. Everyone has different needs and different ways of coping. It is common to want to strike back at people who have caused great pain. Children and older adults are of special concern in the aftermath of disasters. Even individuals who experience a disaster “second hand” through exposure to extensive media coverage can be affected.

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

Minimize this emotional and traumatic experience by being prepared, not scared and therefore you and your family will stay in control and survive a major hurricane.

SIGNS OF HURRICANE RELATED STRESS:    

  •     Difficulty communicating thoughts.
  •     Difficulty sleeping.
  •     Difficulty 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 concerns and perceptions and with discussion of concrete plans for safety.

Listen to what the child is saying. If a young child is asking questions about the event, answer them simply 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 following a disaster, children are most afraid that: the event will happen again, someone close to them will be killed or injured, and/or they will be left alone or separated from the family.

REASSURING CHILDREN AFTER A DISASTER:

  • Personal contact is reassuring. Hug and touch your children.
  • Calmly provide factual information about the recent disaster and current plans for insuring their safety along with 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 a family disaster plan.
If you have tried to create a reassuring environment by following the steps above, but your child continues to exhibit stress, if the reactions worsen over time, or if they cause interference with daily behavior at school, at home, or with other relationships, it may be appropriate to talk to a professional. You can get professional help from the child’s primary care physician, a ment
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