Sandy’s Reverberations Impact Our Kids Too

My heart and best wishes go out to all the many families affected by the storms of the past 12 days. The tragic stories just keep coming. And the frustration and despair so many feel as they still lack power and struggle to find gas for their cars is no longer handled with the post-storm empathy we all seemed to have in the early days.

But I am empowered by all the reports of neighbors, friends and families helping each other. Families making hot meals and serving as home base for friends, recharging batteries as well as spirits, and offering showers and rides are now the norm. These are wonderful examples of community and kindness for our children to see as they learn from us how to handle misfortune.

Which leads me to the fact that too many young children have experienced frightening circumstances, from the little girl who refuses to return to her home in Lindenhurst because she “doesn’t want the water to rush in again and take her away” to the little boy in Centerport who is terrified another tree will fall on his home. Kids who didn’t experience danger and destruction first-hand may have seen images in the paper or on TV. Most likely they’ve heard it from you or someone else around them. And all children pick up on their parents’ stress; it’s unavoidable as they’re so attuned to us. Complicating matters is that even their normal routines of school and daycare have been disrupted.

To help your child, watch for signs of stress and depression. Nightmares, clinginess, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, anger, sadness and hyperactivity are all signals they’re having trouble coping. Most children will benefit from extra cuddling and reassurance. Try to determine what upsets them most simply by letting them voice their concerns, fears and observations to you.  And if nothing seems to reassure them, consider counseling when you’re able. For young children, I highly recommend turning off the TV and radio in their presence so you can control the information that they get. For older children who do their own Google searches, be aware of what they’re reading and seeing and be sure to discuss it with them.
We don’t yet know when we as a Long Island community can put Sandy fully behind us. But being aware of what worries our children and helping them through it can at least put the brakes on some of the storm’s reverberations.

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