As we begin the recovery process in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, we will need to monitor the recovery of our most vulnerable population – our children. Disasters can leave children feeling scared, nervous, confused and anxious.  It’s important to recognize these natural reactions and that children’s responses to tragedy and disaster can be mixed, and even delayed – trauma doesn’t go away once the flood waters have disappeared. Here are five tips to help you identify the signs of trauma and help your children feel safe:


  • TIP #1 – Know the Symptoms of Trauma- When floods occur, children may have a variety of psychological responses. It is possible for children to develop chronic emotional and behavioral problems following exposure to pervasive stresses, such as the loss of community infrastructure, of home or employment, or of family or friends. In the weeks to come, look out for the following behaviors in your child:

o   Increased feelings of insecurity, unfairness, anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, and despair, dread of a flood reoccurring

o   Disruptive behaviors, irritability, temper-tantrums, agitation, or hyperactivity

o   Clinging-dependent behaviors, especially when separating from parents or caregivers

o   Physical symptoms such as disturbances in sleep or appetite, stomachaches, or headaches

o   School-based problems such as decreased motivation or a decline in school performance


  • TIP #2 – Focus on Family – Emotional and physical exhaustion may take its toll on both parents and children. The severe disruption and stress that floods can cause in a family may lead to an increase in family dysfunction or a risk of abuse. In the weeks to come, stay calm, support each other, forgive emotional outbursts, make plans, and spend time together. A strong sense of family can provide great comfort for children in need.



  • TIP #3 – Look out for Triggers – Children and adults frequently experience traumatic reminders, during which individuals will suddenly relive all the emotions, fears, and thoughts they initially had at the time of the flood. Traumatic reminders can include flood watches and warnings, the sudden onset of dark clouds, lightning, thunder, and rain. Look out for emotional triggers in the weeks, months, and, even years to come.  Be ready to provide extra comfort and support when needed.



  • TIP #4 – Know When to Seek Outside Help- Everyone reacts to trauma differently and some may take longer to heal from traumatic events than others. That being said, many experts suggest if your child is still suffering from anxiety, distraction, fear, hopelessness, sleep problems, nightmares, sadness, angry outbursts, or headaches—it might be time to consult a mental health professional. The good news is that kids are very resilient and most will fully recover even if they need extra mental support.

Source: Newman, Kira M. (2015). “Nine Tips for Talking to Kids about Trauma.” Greater Good Magazine, University of California – Berkley.


  • TIP #5: Monitor Adult Conversation & News Exposure – As mentioned in our previous post, it will be important to continue to monitor your child’s exposure to the news, social media and adult conversations throughout the coming weeks.  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 Source: &