How do you feel after a hurricane? Circle all that apply: afraid, enraged, curious, optimistic or miserable. This is one of 16 topics addressed in the “After the Storm” workbook that helps parents sort out their kids’ feelings following a potentially traumatic hurricane.
The booklet authors—psychologists and pediatricians at the University of Miami—found that a number of Gulf Coast kids in their study cohort suffered from symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression after Hurricanes Andrew (1992), Charley (2004) and Ike (2008) disrupted their lives. Kids may have to change schools, for example, or may no longer be able to play outside for a period of time. In extreme cases, their neighborhood or house may be destroyed, or people they know could be injured or killed. Eight months after the disasters, the researchers found that some kids still had symptoms of post-traumatic stress and depression and were at high risk for those feelings to negatively impact their well being over the long term.
Actively helping kids cope with these stressors may help them better adjust to their new reality, however. With that in mind, the researchers put together a freely accessible workbook that helps parents address the challenges their children may be facing in the wake of the storm.
The book starts with the basics: what is a hurricane? “You are a meteorologist working for the National Weather Service,” the introductory lesson says. When the hurricane hit your area, the instructions continue, all of the computers stopped working. It’s up to you to fill in the missing information for the Service. Kids then fill out information such as the hurricane’s category, the amount of rainfall and the peak wind gust of their storm.
Other lessons deal with feelings, clueing parents in to potential problems their kids may be dealing with such as not sleeping well, feeling scared or angry or constantly facing upsetting reminders about the hurricane. Eventually, the book parlays into useful methods for coping with the storm’s aftermath, such as reminding kids of their favorite activities and suggesting ways they can actively aid their community in a “weekly helping chart,” like volunteering for a neighborhood service project or helping an elderly person with their groceries.
For parents, the booklet offers plenty of advice on how to keep their child’s chin up and also guidance on recognizing the signs that professional help might be needed. It also reminds parents to relax, too. They can join their kids in the “turtle activity,” for example, a type of therapeutic yoga for frazzled young storm survivors.
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