Help your child recover from fearfulness following hurricanes

Rebecca White, Benedict, Linda F.  |  9/7/2008 11:37:15 PM

News Release Distributed 09/07/08

A child may continue to be fearful following a hurricane because of the uncertainty of the future, says LSU AgCenter family and consumer sciences specialist Becky White.

“A child can mix up real fear and make-believe fear,” White says. “This is OK, and a parent or other care-giver can help in many ways.”

White advises not to leave your child alone in a new place and stay together to assure your child you won’t go away. Explain the disaster, and let your child know you were afraid, too.

Your child will be comforted by things that are familiar. If possible, get copies of photos from family and friends and try to replace any lost stuffed animals.

Allow your child to talk about the disaster, but do not force it. When discussing it, stress over and over, as necessary, that he or she is now safe.

White says to talk with your child while holding the youngster. Say it’s okay to be afraid, and be quiet and listen.

Strictly supervise and limit your child’s viewing of the disaster on television and other media. Repeated viewing of disaster scenes can be distressing for children. If possible, when your child is watching television, discuss the programs you see.

Expect greater difficulty at times of separation (leaving for school, bedtime) and offer extra reassurances. Let your child know where you are. Daytime phone calls can help comfort your child.

Keep working to make things better. With safety in mind, let your child help clean up. Don’t stop doing things to make your conditions better. Don’t give up. Structure your day with order as best you can.

"Children need structure," White says. "Talk to your child about your family plans each day. Stay close together."

Bedtime may be a troublesome time for your child. He or she may need to sleep near you and may be fearful of the dark. Your child may begin to wet the bed again or have bad dreams.

"Tell your child why it gets dark," White says. "Talk about your child’s dreams. Praise your child for good things."

White says not to yell at or spank your child. Agree on a time for your child to go to bed. If your child is sleeping in another room, leave the door slightly open. Leave the light on, if necessary.

Read to your child. Tell your child a story about something good that happened that day.

“If you stay concerned about your child, seek support. School counselors and clergy can help you find professional help,” White says. “Remember, this is a hard time for you, too.”

During the hurricane recovery time, you may be concerned about how your child will be cared for. Where will your children be secure? Who will watch them as you deal with cleanup, repairs or while you are contacting agencies and organizations?

If your regular childcare arrangements are unavailable, check with churches, clergy, church members, childcare facilities, relatives, sitters or neighbors. After-school activities give the child a meaningful place to be and free you to deal with the crisis, White says.

Library programs, municipal recreation department events, 4-H clubs, boys and girls clubs, the YMCA, the YWCA and church youth groups are other alternatives. There even may be money available to help you pay for care through the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.

For information on hurricane recovery, go to www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent at your local parish LSU AgCenter office.

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Contact: Becky White at (225) 578-3921 or bwhite@agcenter.lsu.edu

Editor: Linda Foster Benedict at (225) 578-2937 or lbenedict@agcenter.lsu.edu

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