As Hurricane Matthew bares down on the States we are all worried about what will happen and what effect it will have on us personally. There are standard guides for how much water and food to get and how to “hunker” down, but do we talk about the emotional toll on our children? Especially those who have experienced trauma?
If you have been in the path of a Hurricane just the thought is petrifying. Those of us who have weathered a few are less anxious but hopefully still cautious. Because we are adults we might even remember the devastation Andrew left in it’s wake. Those haunting pictures still take my breath away as I imagine being in a home as it is blown apart. Our children however cannot fully comprehend what is about to occur.
They can feel the increases hustle in the air, the extra water being stored and even though you try to hide your anxiety … they can sense it . If you are in the direct path you may be packing to leave, to seek shelter and if this is the case my prayers are with you all. How can we make this easier for our children?
First acknowledge what is occurring around them. No matter their ages, its important to involve them. Why? because everything in their lives has always happened TO them. They were abused, neglected , placed in foster care…. they did not have any control in what happened. Giving them a role of importance like counting how many water jugs you have, gathering the flashlights and batteries and making sure there is enough dog food, will involve them and help them feel more in control. Those of us with teenagers, have them physically help board up your home, move large items and truly batten down the hatches.
By involving the entire family, you become a TEAM. When you reassure them you are in this together, because they have an active role , you are believable. Remember they have heard a lot of words before, but without substance. This is a time where attachment can flourish and grow and many years from now they will remember how they felt as they weathered this storm with their family.
Now for the easier part… take out every game , activity and fun item you can so they can step aside from the storm focus if they need to. As parents we will all be glued to the TV, Radio and Internet watching the storm as it progresses. Its okay to let the kids watch as long as you are there to process their feelings and fears, but have activities (with and without electricity ) for your children to escape to. Come on… when was the last time you played a 4 hour Monopoly game?
Most importantly… the more you talk and process everyone’s feelings you will be that parent who is aware. Children of trauma are used to being left alone to deal with their feelings and fears. By setting up a different type of relationship with them, you will build trust and help them move forward emotionally healthier in the midst of this event.
So… remember for our children, the storm within can rage while the storm outside is blowing. Be aware and intentional in your choices during this time and something good may come during such a stressful time. Be safe out there, I am off to fill water jugs and find flashlights.Back to Blog Archive