06 Jun Hurricane Season and Your Child
June 1st marked the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season. Although it’s been nearly six years since Hurricane Sandy devastated many coastal areas of Long Island, the possibility is very real that we could face another similar crisis. Being prepared is essential—not only with enough batteries and food supplies, but also with the wisdom of how to help young people deal with the fear and trauma they may experience after a storm.
Following is advice from North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center Executive Director Andrew Malekoff on how to soothe your children in the face of a disaster, and also some tips on how to prepare a disaster kit from the National Hurricane Center.
Helping Children in the Aftermath of a Disaster
Provide protection, support, and safety. Children and youths need safe places to go, with worthwhile things to do and opportunities for belonging. And they need relationships with competent adults that understand and care about them. Living through a disaster can contribute to a pervasive sense of fearfulness, hyper- vigilance and despair. Do all you can to ensure a basic level of physical and emotional safety that helps to cultivate a sense of trust. Safe havens in school and the community are prerequisites for helping kids through this disaster.
Help to re-establish connections and rebuild a sense of community. The trauma of living through a disaster leads to demoralization, disorientation and loss of connection. Hurricanes and other disasters can leave individuals feeling unprotected and on their own. Connecting with others addresses the primary need of survivors to affiliate and can promote mutual support, reduce isolation, and normalize young (and older) peoples’ responses and reactions to what feels like a surreal situation. Don’t go it alone.
Offer opportunities for action that represents triumph over the demoralization of helplessness and despair. “Talking about the trauma is rarely if ever enough,” advises noted trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk. Children and teens can be encouraged to write poetry, create artwork, engage in social action, volunteer to help other victims or any of the multitudes of creative solutions that individuals can find to confront even the most distressing troubles. Creatively engage your children to give them some control over what feels like and out-of-control situation.
Actively endure. Louis Lowy was a World War II concentration-camp survivor. Although he rarely talked about his wartime experiences, his later career as a social work educator was infused with the time he was leader of the Deggendorf Displaced Persons Center. Lowy taught “active endurance,” which he described as “not merely enduring passively, but also learning to endure actively…substituting hope for despair, persevering rather than giving up, persisting rather than surrendering in the face of difficult odds, and helping to sustain ourselves [and those that we care about] through mutual support.” Parents can set this example for their children.
Basic Disaster Supplies Kit
To assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.
A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:
- Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food – at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Download the Recommended Supplies List (PDF)
It’s important to note that young children might be afraid of simple thunderstorms. If you have a child who fears the rumble of thunder and climbs into bed, let them know they are safe inside your home; encourage them to self-soothe with a favorite stuffed animal or blanket; and let them express their fears to you. Don’t minimize their concerns by telling them they’re silly, but do explain that they are safe.