Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School

 


Dr. Maria L. Valcourt-Rodriguez
School Counselor /Sts Peter-Paul Catholic School

How to Talk to Your Children about Hurricanes and other types of Weather Events

As we head into the Hurricane Season, depending on their ages, this might be a great opportunity to talk to kids about storms and different types of weather events that are prevalent in your own area.  Whether its tornadoes, thunderstorms, hurricanes or even earthquakes, take the time to discuss why we are geographically susceptible to specific weather systems and how these systems form.  God has created our marvelous world, and learning about its wonders only reaffirms His greatness and sovereignty.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists experiencing a dangerous storm can be traumatic for children. Most families do recover from natural disasters over time, with the support of family, friends and organizations.  The length of recovery depends on how frightening or close to the event the child was – whether they had to flee their home, and the extent of the damage and loss. If we do things together to prepare before the storm, and explain why we’re building an emergency kit, or getting our escape route planned out, this can help take some of the scare out of a potentially life-changing weather event.

Children look to their parents for guidance, support and the words that assure them that they and your family will be safe. Children also look to adults to measure how safe and predictable the world is around them. As parents living in South Florida region we must now begin to speak to our children about the realities of future weather events and hurricanes in a manner that balances reality with reassurance. Here are a few guidelines to help you speak to your children when a storm threatens your area:

Children under the Age of Three: ACTION more than Words

• Remember that even young babies have emotional and behavioral responses to their parents being anxious or   depressed

• Try to maintain normal routines and favorite activities

• If evacuating be sure to bring familiar play toys, music and stuffed animals

• Provide a calm, peaceful environment absent of adult conversations of crisis and disaster

• Limit exposure to television coverage of the storm

Preschool-Age Children: All Hurricanes are Harvey

• Many pre-school children now believe that all hurricanes that enter to our zone will cause the same devastation as Harvey. “Magical Thinking” at this age will cause children to mix fantasy with reality.

• Listen and watch your child, children at this age express their feelings through play and words.

• Do not brush off your child’s questions about the storm. If you do not answer them, they will make up their own answers that are inaccurate and far more catastrophic.

• Do not dismiss your child’s feelings as being silly or unreasonable. If your child is afraid of your house being flooded, then talk to them about these feelings and the realities of flooding in your neighborhood

• Limit exposure to television coverage of the storm, and adult conversations of crisis and disaster

School-Age Children: Comfort through Chores

• School-Age children understand what is reality what kind of damage and disruption a hurricane can cause. Children at this age want and need to help when a storm is approaching.

• Give your child a few small tasks to assist the family in preparing for a storm. This will give them a sense of control and comfort as well as promote a feeling of cohesiveness within the family.

• Address your child’s questions and feelings in conversation that include your own thoughts and feelings. In measured amounts, sharing your worry about an approaching storm will send the message that being afraid is normal and “OK”

• Limit exposure to television coverage of the storm, and adult conversations of crisis and disaster

Teenagers: Focus on Friends

• Because friends are so important to teenagers, they often bear the additional worry about their entire circle of friends when a storm approaches. To complicate their worry, the “ups and downs” of natural teenage moodiness can be more dramatic because they are learning how to manage their emotions at a time when their world appears out of their control

• Reassure your teenager that their friends and their families will be safe from harm

• Teenagers can easily be overwhelmed by their emotions. Give teenagers “alone time” so that they can organize their thoughts and emotions

• Limit exposure to television coverage of the storm; include teenagers in adult conversations about the storm when appropriate

 

Each year, on average, 10 tropical storms (of which six become hurricanes) develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. While the effects of hurricanes, which may include heavy rains, large waves, hail and wind, can be devastating to neighborhoods and homes, there are simple steps families can take protect children during hurricanes.

  • Talk about hurricanes. Spend time with your family discussing why hurricanes occur. Explain that a hurricane is a natural event and not anyone’s fault. Use simple words that even young children can understand.
  • Know your risk. Find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation area. Assess your risks from a storm surge, flooding or wind damage that may accompany a hurricane.
  • Practice evacuation drills. Practice your family evacuation plan so that, during an emergency, you can evacuate quickly and safely.
  • Learn your caregivers’ disaster plans. If your child’s school or child care center is in an area at risk from hurricanes, find out how its emergency plans address hurricanes. Ask about evacuation plans and if you would be required to pick up your children from the site or from another location.
  • Stay informed. Use a NOAA Weather Radio or listen to a local station on a portable, battery-powered radio or television. Be ready to act if a Hurricane Warning is issued.

DURING A HURRICANE

  • Evacuate if instructed to do so. Evacuate if told to do so by local authorities or if you feel unsafe. If advised to evacuate, avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out bridges. Local officials may close certain roads, especially near the coast, when effects of the hurricane reach the coast.
  • Stay indoors, if not evacuated. If you are not advised to evacuate, or are unable to do so safely, stay indoors, away from windows, skylights and doors. Continue to monitor weather reports and do not go outside until the storm has passed.

AFTER A HURRICANE

  • Limit media exposure. Protect children from seeing too many sights and images of the hurricane, including those on the internet, television or newspapers.
  • Ensure utilities are available. Before children are returned to areas impacted by a hurricane, make sure utilities, such as electricity and plumbing, are restored and living and learning spaces (e.g., homes, schools, child care facilities) are free from physical and environmental hazards.
  • Involve children in recovery. After a hurricane, let children help in clean-up and recovery efforts in age-appropriate ways as this participation may increase their sense of control over the situation.

Identifying Stress Reactions in Your Child

The following are common reactions and behaviors that parents need to look out for:

Children under the Age of Three

  • Change in their personality that involves being clingy, irritable or tearful  
  •  Loss of energy or interest in play   
  •  Regression or change in daily routines of eating, sleeping or toileting

Preschool-Age Children

  • Fear of being alone   - Nightmares, fear of the dark     - Clinginess     - Defiance
  • Changes in speech (baby talk or stuttering)

School-Age Children

  • Irritable, whiney    - Aggression toward peers    - School avoidance   
  • Disturbances in sleeping or eating habits         -  Headaches or other physical complaints   

Teenagers

  • Headaches or other physical complaints      - Disturbances in sleeping or eating habits
  • Withdrawal from family and/or friends        - Defiance of authority
  • Increased “risk taking” behaviors including use of drugs, alcohol and being sexually active

 

Some good sites to help teach your children about storms as well as help your family prepare for natural disasters are: * Weather Wiz Kids (weather information for kids) *Disaster and Emergency Preparedness | weather.com

Remember that reactions to traumatic events may appear immediately or after several days or even months. With adequate support from family and school most stress symptoms in children will begin to fade over time. If your child’s symptoms increase or remain over a long period of time, it is best to seek professional mental health services through your child’s pediatrician or school counselor.

During times of fear or anxiety, read this verse with your family.  Notice that our God is a God of HOPE.  That He desires to fill each of us with JOY and PEACE. But there’s one thing He asks us to do… TRUST IN HIM.

Being physically prepared for possible disasters and becoming educated about severe weather conditions that could happen in our own geographical areas is vitally important.  Just as important is our spiritual preparedness enabling us to handle the impending storms.  For spiritual preparedness, the best survival manual is always God’s Holy Word.

God Bless you all…

Dr. Maria L. Valcourt-Rodriguez
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School Counselor /Sts. Peter-Paul Catholic School

 

 

 


Guidance Counseling

The guidance program at SPPS is guided by its mission statement for the development of the whole child in a Christ-centered community. The school guidance counselor serves as student advocate and system support, collaborating with faculty, administrators, parents, students, and other professionals in the community. The program addresses students' special spiritual, educational, personal and social needs through classroom lessons, group counseling and individual sessions. The guidance program helps students with learning disabilities, emotional disorders, physical disabilities, life events, AIDS program and Virtus Program education.

1435 SW 12th Avenue Miami FL 33129 US   |  +1.305.858.3722

Carlota E. Morales, Ed.D. - Principal              Father Juan M. Lopez - Pastor

CONTACT THE COUNSELOR
DR. MARIA L. VALCOURT-RODRIGUEZ
Guidance Counselor
Phone: 305.858.3722 Ext. 103
mvalcourt@stspeter-paul.org