After the storm: Helping kids cope with post-Florence feelings, anxiety

After the storm: Helping kids cope with post-Florence feelings, anxiety
Keeping an open line of communication is key to help children deal with storm stress. (Source: WECT) (Donovan, Chelsea)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Storms like Hurricane Florence can create plenty of stress.

You may not realize your children are trying to cope with loss as you are. Maybe they’ve been in a shelter or lost a pet, and just seeing devastation surrounding them can be tough to swallow.

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“Kids may not have the words or ability to express what they are feeling after a natural disaster,” said Lauren Moser Vilar, a licensed clinical social worker.

Vilar said there are four main tips parents can use to help keep the lines of communication open:

  1. Allow the kids to talk about the storm as much as they want and whenever they choose.
  2. Try to focus storm questions around strength, resilience and positivity. Vilar says “Ask your child who were the helpers during the storm, or who made you feel safe?”
  3. Get your children engaged in grounding techniques like meditation, yoga for kids, or maybe a weighted blanket for comfort.
  4. Try to maintain as much structure and predictability after the storm as possible.

Vilar offered another tip.

“You can also encourage your children to show how they feel maybe through song, dance, or drawings, anything to help get their feelings out in a different way,” Vilar said.

Symptoms of storm stress can include: mood swings, lack of appetite, overeating, tummy aches, and sleep changes.

“Symptoms often show up three to six months after disaster,” said Vilar. “That’s when the glow of the community support has faded, so that is the time we need to be supporting kids with information and also encouraging them to give information.”

Vilar says counseling is a great way to prevent further mental health issues like anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder that could arise after a storm.

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