Most children in seaside towns love spending summers at the beach. But some who lived through Superstorm Sandy last year are struggling with new fears of water and the ocean.
Children’s Health Fund has been on the ground providing physical and mental health care to families affected by the storm. Dr. Paula Madrid, clinical psychologist and trauma specialist, has been working with Children’s Health Fund to make sure kids and parents are getting the care they need.
Dr. Madrid has put together a list of warning signs for parents whose children may be feeling the aftereffects of the storm, as well as tips for ways to cope.
If a child who previously loved the water is now staying away, this could be a sign of a deeper problem. Reintroduce your child to playing in water by playing in the bathtub or going to a local pool. Gradually introduce the idea of going to the beach. Encourage your child to play on the sand and put their feet in the water. Each time you visit the beach, they will get more comfortable and you may slowly encourage them to go to their knees, their waist, and eventually dive in. Be sure not to push them too fast; they need to move at their own pace.
There are many kids who, following Sandy, are very afraid of the rain or even a rainy forecast. Remind your child that rain is important to help plants grow and to give us water to drink, and while it may have been scary during the storm, it is very unlikely to happen again.
Keep a normal routine for your kids. This will help ease some of their anxiety. Plan dates with their friends. Having an activity for your child to look forward to will help alleviate some of their worries. Introduce family reading time or game night. Right now what children want and need the most is to spend time with family.
Many families who were affected by the storm had to rebuild and replace many of their belongings. They may not have extra money to take a summer vacation, leaving kids feeling grief and boredom. This is a great chance to check out many of the free activities happening in your neighborhood. Many towns have movie nights in the park, libraries offer story hour, and museums are often free for students.
Children react to stress and depression much differently than adults, and kids watch how their parents react. Keep your eyes open for children who are irritable and hyperactive, and remember your kids are watching your behavior and may react accordingly.
(Photo: jnk, sxc.hu)