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Monday, November 5, 2012

Helping Kids Cope With Superstorm Sandy

Elmo, the “Sesame Street” Muppet, spoke to WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” about Hurricane Sandy. (Richard Drew/AP)

After Sandy tore through the East Coast, Elmo went on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” and offered this advice to kids in the New York region: “If you don’t have electricity, it will be on very soon. And be careful out there!”

As storm cleanup after Sandy continues, it raises questions about how to talk to children about natural disasters.

Experts suggest sticking to a scheduled routine, answering children’s questions thoroughly, and asking them to share their feelings.

Dr. Melissa Brymer, director of terrorism and disaster programs at the UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, suggests that older children and teenagers may want to take a more active role.

“Adolescents don’t want to just sit around,” Brymer told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “They see their friends and those around them hurting, and we can find age-appropriate ways for them to volunteer.”

Resources For Talking To Kids About The Storm

Sesame Street: Hurricane Kit. This “tool kit” for parents and caregivers in case of a natural disaster includes four Sesame Street videos for kids to watch (see Part 1 above). It also has 10 tips for parents and caregivers, including encouraging kids to share their feelings with words or pictures, and watching out for signs of stress, such as nightmares, bed-wetting and aggression. Sesame Street also has a PDF guide called “Here for Each Other” to help families after an emergency.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Resources for After a Hurricane. The resources include simple activities to do with your children or adolescents, guidelines for parents on how to help their child after a hurricane and ways teachers can support students in the aftermath of a hurricane. There is also a children’s book that explains hurricanes in kid-friendly language, with a useful guide for parents and caregivers at the end of the story.

FEMA: Keeping Children Safe in Sandy’s Wake. Written by a medical doctor, this guide from the Federal Emergency Management Agency includes tips on how to keep children safe in storm-affected areas, as well as a section called “Addressing the Emotional Impacts from Sandy.” (Recommended by @hellolittleone on Twitter.)

The Child Mind Institute: Talking to Kids About Hurricane Sandy. The website includes a number of tips, and says “Be calm, factual and supportive. And turn off the TV.”

Teaching Strategies: Helping Young Children Rebound After a Natural Disaster. This website has a number of resources for talking to kids about hurricanes Katrina and Rita – but they’re just as relevant for Sandy. It includes PDF guides for infant and toddler teachers, as well as preschool teachers. (Recommended by Rachel Altmann of Portland, Oreg.)

The Red Cross: Children and Their Response to Disaster. The website has tips for reducing fear and trauma in children. For example: “When you’re sure that danger has passed, concentrate on your child’s emotional needs by asking the child what’s uppermost in his or her mind. Having children participate in the family’s recovery activities will help them feel that their life will soon return to ‘normal.’ Your response during this time may have a lasting impact.” (Recommended by Caren Bedsworth of Nevada.)

Do you have other resources for talking to and supporting kids after the storm? Or do you have stories to share? Let us know in the comments section or on our Facebook page.


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.

    Everything is relative….. or so the pundits often state. In Syria every kid is wondering when the next 1,000 pound bomb is going to tear through his or her home. No help here from Elmo. In New York and New Jersey every kid when he or she is grown will talk about hurricane Sandy with excitement and woe for years to come. Writers of books will will have a bonanza of material to write about and earn a living. Unlike congress a Women by the name of Sandy will force Congress to make jobs for and in America.  But Republicans will blame Sandy (a women) for causing problems and a reason for stemming women’s rights. Yet, where is Karl Rove’s Cross Roads GPS super pac propaganda group and other right wing super pacs, for sure they are not helping the victims in New York and New Jersey. If we are lucky Chris Christy will change his mind and vote for President Obama tomorrow and switch over to the Democratic party. Everything is relative.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500016614 Jon Ayers

    May I also

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500016614 Jon Ayers

    May I also suggest a Hurricane-related children’s book which just came-out a few months ago: “Higher Ground” by Kevin Robert Fitton of Vermont.  This book, illustrated by Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Mary Azarian, does a wonderful job explaining Hurricane Irene’s destructive wake and the strength thatThe writer, illustrator, publisher, printer and distributors have come together to make 100% of the proceeds go toward ongoing disaster relief in Vermont.
     exists in community.  Fitton writes from a farmer’s perspective and does a great job being honest about the hardship that came (and still comes) with Irene while remaining warm and hopeful.  

    May those effected by hurricane Sandy experience the kind of redemption we Vermonters have experienced in the face of such tragedy. 

  • Hughbeandmary

    I served as a school counselor for 30 years in the Pensacola Fl. area. What I found beneficial after Hurricane Ivan and other traumas is to allow children to tell their …tell their story….tell their story until there is not story to tell…This far more important than being concerned about what to tell children…After Ivan we allowed children to tell their story whenever they had the need…This is not a time to correct their story…Help them re-think troubling parts of their story(troubling to the child) into a more positive thinking…It has to be theirs…not what the adult would like…We found parents were dealing with survival and others concerns that they were not always the adult to listen to the child’s story over and over again…We had groups of children share with someone trained…not necessary a professional….We trained all staff that the children saw throughout their day…I served the children who were traumatized by the storm or trauma…If school is not starting soon then get together with neighbors…when adults are asked what they need…ask someone to train them to help the children…I probably spent less then an hour training the school staff…we included additional time for the staff to tell their story which is important before they try to help the children….

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