5 tips to help keep kids calm during Hurricane Harvey

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A boy walks with a bodyboard through a flooded street as the effects of Hurricane Harvey are seen August 26, 2017 in Galveston, Texas. Hurricane Harvey left a trail of devastation Saturday after the most powerful storm to hit the US mainland in over a decade slammed into Texas, destroying homes, severing power supplies and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Brendan Smialowski has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Hurricane Harvey] instead of [Hurricane Henry]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

HOUSTON — While Houstonians and supportive outsiders band together to overcome the unrelenting rain of Tropical Storm Harvey, it’s important to remember our youngest residents and television viewers.

CHILDREN AT RISK is a non-profit organization leading the way to improving the quality of life for Texas’ children through research, collaboration, and advocacy.  Youth development professionals, the organization has shared five tips to help parents and caretakers make sense of the devastating situation to children. 

Encourage Dialogue 

Speak simply and honestly about the situation. Listen to your kids. Ask them about their feelings. Validate their concerns. Keep things hopeful. Even in the most difficult situations, it is important to identify some positive aspect and to stay hopeful for the future. A positive and optimistic outlook helps children see the good things in the world around them. This outlook can be one way to help them get through even the most challenging times. Provide ongoing opportunities for children to talk since they will probably have more questions as time goes on. (Sources:https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/tips-talking-to-children-after-traumatic-event.pdf;http://www.hcpss.org/f/aboutus/helpingchildren.pdf)

Focus on the Helpers

Speak with your children about community recovery, what’s happening now and what will continue to happen in the aftermath. Reassure children that neighbors, volunteers, and the government are taking action to help all those affected by this disaster, including opening up shelters, rescuing people from flooded neighborhoods, donating supplies and funds, restoring electricity, removing debris, and helping families find safety (Source: http://www.hcpss.org/f/aboutus/helpingchildren.pdf)

Maintain the Texan Spirit

Speak with your children about helping your neighbors and coming together as a community.  Encourage children to help. Children recover and cope better when they feel they are helping. Find opportunities in which they can contribute in the aftermath of the hurricane. This is a great time to discuss what is going on around the city and brainstorm ways they can help during this time and in the coming weeks. (Source: http://www.hcpss.org/f/aboutus/helpingchildren.pdf)

Monitor Adult Conversation & News Exposure

Be aware of what is being said during adult conversations about the hurricane, the flooding and its aftermath. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened unnecessarily about something they do not understand. In a world of the 24 hour a day news cycle, limit the amount of news your children are watching and remember that it is important to take a break from it.  You want them to know what’s going on but you also want to be mindful of how much they can developmentally handle. (Sources: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/news-coverage.aspx & http://www.hcpss.org/f/aboutus/helpingchildren.pdf)

Emphasize Your Family’s Safety

Remind your children that they will be ok.  Make sure that your children understand they’re safe, that you will take care of them and that the family will be taken care of.  Reassure of their current safety and their safety in the future. This may need to be repeated many times following the hurricane and flooding. Spending extra time with your children and staying connected to them will help them feel safe. (Sources: http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/01/health/disaster-kids/index.html &https://www.extension.umn.edu/family/disaster-recovery/coping-with-stress/talking-with-children/#reassure)