Helping Children Cope
Hurricane season can be a scary time for kids. It’s confusing to evacuate and leave personal belongings behind. Adults in the home may be stressed out by the weather updates. How can you help younger family members work their way through these stressful times?
When kids learn in advance, they’ll have a better understanding of what’s taking place when disaster strikes. Some great resources for your family to check out together include:
Making Plans for
- Involve children in emergency planning, such
as checking supplies and writing a shopping
- Follow suggestions or warnings by emergency
services for the care and safety of your child.
- Use simple and matter-of-fact language to
discuss safety steps.
- Play “let’s pretend...” games
with young children to help them work out “what
Evacuating with Your
- Pack a small bag or box of supplies with
games, books and hobby items.
- Remember diapers, food and drinks for kids.
- Bring a favorite toy or stuffed animal to
help children feel more secure.
Coping with Emotions:
after families are out of danger, children may
remain afraid. Research indicates that fears
vary with age, maturity and previous experiences.
Four major fears common in children are: death,
darkness, animals and abandonment. Children are
likely to experience three of these major fears
during a storm which impacts their ability to
cope for some time. Emotional support from parents
is critical, well after the storm is over.
- Children mirror their parents’ anxieties,
so be calm to help reduce your children's
- Listen to fears and reassure children often
- Encourage them to talk and ask questions,
but limit discussion to basic facts.
- Spend extra time before bedtime; leave a
door open and night-light on.
- Maintain close contact. Hold and touch your
- Don’t discipline for unusual signs
of anxiety during a crisis, like bedwetting
- Do not lie to children about the dangers.
Reassure them that you are focused on their
- Be cautious of permitting young children
to watch or listen to news.
- Allow for mourning and grieving over the
loss of meaningful items.
If You Must Leave
Children who have been through
a disaster are afraid of being separated from
family and left alone. Avoid separation, even
to go to the store. If you must leave children
with friends or relatives, reassure them:
- Let your child know how long you will be
- Let your child know how often you will be
in touch with him or her.
- Keep in touch with your child frequently
and as regularly as you promised.
- Make sure your child’s needs are being
To Your Child:
Some children may need additional
help in coping with a hurricane. Their behaviors
may indicate additional problems. Following a
disaster some children may:
- Be upset at the loss of a favorite toy, blanket
- Be angry. They might hit, throw, kick to
show their anger.
- Become more active or restless and experience
- Be afraid of the hurricane recurring.
- Want to sleep with a parent or other person.
- Have symptoms of illness such as nausea,
vomiting, headaches, lack of appetite.
- Be quiet and withdrawn.
- Become easily upset, frequently crying and whining.
- Feel guilty that they caused the disaster
because of some previous behavior.
- Feel neglected by parents who are busy trying
to clean-up and rebuild.
- Refuse to go to school or to child care.
- Become afraid of loud noises, rain, storms.
- Not show any outward signs of being upset.