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Helping Your Children Deal with the Anniversary of Sandy

starfish
(photo by xandert, morguefile)

The Starfish Project was created as a way to help keep your kids from being retraumatized leading up the anniversary of the superstorm. Look for “anniversary reactions” among your family, and use this great step-by-step guide and wide range of services still available to help you:For many families that suffered through Sandy, it was virtually impossible to shelter our kids from the harsh realities of the devastation from the superstorm.

But even when you think you’re pulling it together, feelings about the event can get stirred up again on this first anniversary, especially with pictures all over the tv and web showing some of the most horrific images of what happened to our shore and our homes and our properties and our lives.

Sometimes memories and feelings can come rushing back into our minds with amazing clarity. And you may find yourself or your family members rehashing feelings that you thought had long been resolved.

Sometimes the memories can manifest in the form of nightmares or you and your children could start feeling easily irritated and worried or just generally out of sorts. In fact it may be happening to you or your child right now, but you didn’t connect it to the anniversary of Sandy.

If your child is experiencing a change in behavior, unexplained bad dreams or simply ‘not being themself’….or if your child seems preoccupied with the anniversary of the superstorm, just remember that they might not even know it’s happening and they may not understand why they are acting the way they are. Kids are also not always able to put their feelings into words.

So what can you do about it? Here are some steps to guide you in talking with your children about he anniversary of the hurricane:

– First of all, take some time to think about your reactions. Acknowledging your own feelings is the first step in being able to help your children express theirs. For many of us, it’s been a long, hard year and it can help to look back and review not just the challenges and frustrations but also the coping skills that have helped you get through. Even if there’s very little of it, emphasize the positive. It will be a big step in the right direction of recovering.

– Bring up the anniversary of Sandy with your children. Don’t worry that you’re calling attention to it…they’re going to hear about it in school or in the community anyway. By bringing it up, you’re giving your kids permission to talk about it with you. Many kids are often scared to bring up upsetting topics for fear they will upset their parents or that their feelings will be dismissed. Instead of saying “Oh, you’ll get over it”, give them permission to talk about what’s upsetting them. This will bring relief.

– Explain why you’re bringing the topic up. Say something like: “I know last year at about this time a really terrible and sad thing happened. I’ve been thinking about it again and I wonder if you have had any thoughts about it.” Ask if they’ve talked about Sandy in school. Find out what their friends are saying. Try to remain calm and objective, no matter what your child tells you.

– On the other hand, kids talk when they’re ready…not necessarily when we want them to. If your child is unresponsive, don’t get upset. Acknowledge that this may be a hard thing to talk about but your really are interested in your child’s observations. Then bring up the topic again in the future.

– Monitor TV and the internet as best you can. The images can feel overwhelming and you and your family don’t necessarily need to be reminded about the devastation by looking at it all over again. This is one area that you CAN control. Turn it off if it is stressing you out.

– Also, remember that with your tweens and teens, you should keep your ears and eyes open to what their friends are talking about, what is happening on the internet sites your child frequents. If you hear or see anything that worries you, pursue it. Yes, your child may tell you to mind your own business, but assert your rights as a parent. Your child’s business IS your business!

– Finally, recognize that you do have access to support! Even if you simly want to talk about your own reactions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the resources mentioned here. Talking with someone who can help you make sense of what you’re thinking and feeling is often a big relief…whether you’re a kid or a grown up. You are not alone!!

Here are some of the ways you can get help and direction for you and your kids:

– Dial 2-1-1 on your phone to be connected to a wealth of resources like therapists and other support systems. Or, click here.

– 2ndFLOOR Youth Helpline: 888-222-2228 (24/7 confidential helpline for children/adolescents ages 10 – 24 for any issue including coping with post-Sandy issues and concerns)

– Mental Health Association of Monmouth County: 732-542-6422.

– Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK

– 180 Turning Lives Around: 732-264-4111 (Trauma Therapy and case emanagement for those affected by Sandy)

– Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide: 732-410-7900 (Youth suicide prevention, intervention, postvention, training, and information)

– American Red Cross: 732-493-9100 (Health and mental health services)

– NJ Hope & Healing Counselors: 877-294-4357 (Counseling to assist with the emotional toll of the storm)

– Community YMCA: 732-290-9040 (Counseling for children, adolescents and adults)

– CPC Behavioral Healthcare: 888-671-8203 (counseling services for residents of Keansburg, Union Beach, Highlands, Sea Bright, Oceanport, Atlantic Highlands)

– Acelero Head Start 732-431-3090 (distributes gift cards and food baskets, has support groups)

– Visiting Nurse Association Health Group (VNA): 800-862-3330 (Mental Health Counseling; iin-home social worker visits; in-home nurse visits)

– Family Promise eof Monmouth County New Beginnings Program: 732-673-0346 (Case management services, gift cards and security deposit help.)

– Samaritan Center at the Jersey Shore: 732-223-4673 (Faith-based counseling and education center….professional counseling for addictions, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and stress)

 

 

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