Upon return from the storm, students from Centre and Rhame were encouraged to express their feelings through art, music, creative writing and physical education. However, all support staff agree that it is important not to allow the focus of all conversations with your children to be about the hurricane and its aftermath. “It is important for parents to make sure to leave time to discuss things that are going well to help you and child feel good,” said Mancuso.
Follow your child’s lead. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient — children and teens do not always talk about their feelings readily. Encourage them to open up, but don’t push. They may have already processed things in their own way and may be focused on moving forward. “Remember, children are resilient and often adapt and move on quicker then adults do,” said Kristen Mednick, East Rockaway Jr/Sr High School social worker. “Different children need different things, so listen to your child and watch his or her behavior to figure out what he needs.”
How different is that advice to a kindergartner and/or teenager?
Children may react differently to the hurricane and its aftermath depending on their age, developmental level and prior experiences. Parents should expect that different children might respond to events in different ways and be supportive and understanding of different reactions.
“It’s important to keep your explanations developmentally appropriate,” said Smith. “Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that they are safe and that adults are there to protect and help them. Teenagers will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they are truly safe and when and if their lives and routine will ever “go back to normal
Mednick added that it’s often helpful and healing for teenagers to be given the opportunity to help their own family, or to help others in need. Teenagers often need to feel like they are “doing something”, so allowing them to participate in renovations, repairs or fundraising for others can give them this sense of control and purpose.”
How to get help