Finding The Smile In Your Child’s Eyes After A Disaster

By Janaki Jane, Colorado Spirit
It’s hard enough to have to deal with the aftermath of a disaster as adults, whether it’s fighting insurance companies or driving past debris piles every day. Taking care of kids adds another level of stress and worry. Unfortunately, many children experience disasters every year. Fortunately, this means that many parents before you have found successful ways to deal with their children’s reactions to natural disasters.

 Lyons and Environs Colorado Spirit Team members Robin Lyons, M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Beth Knorek, Masters in Education and Masters in Family Therapy, have the following suggestions for dealing with children after disaster.

Tell the truth, appropriately for their age. Don’t scare them, but be honest. If the child asks: “Is the run-off going to make another flood?” don’t say “No, don’t worry.” Tell them the truth: we don’t know, but this is how we are prepared this time. Use it as a way to go into what Mom’s and Dad’s roles are, and what the child’s jobs are.
A sense of safety can come from feeling in control. If the child doesn’t feel helpless, they won’t be as frightened. Have the children help make the family’s emergency kits. You could have a scavenger hunt for the items in the picture for younger children, or for older children, have them help to create the Family Emergency Plan. has suggestions and checklists at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,%20or%20303-823-8250%20extension%2016.%20The%20Lyons%20and%20Environs%20team%20covers%20the%20area%20from%20Hygiene%20to%20the%20Larimer%20County%20border.%20We%20can%20be%20reached%20at%20(720)%20226-8709,%20on%20our%20Facebook%20page,%20%20at%This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,%20LyonsAndEnvirons,%20or%20by%20dropping%20by%20our%20offices%20at%20431%20Main%20Street%20between%2010%20a.m.%20to%202%20p.m.%20Monday%20through%20Friday.%20Colorado%20Spirit%20Teams%20in%20Boulder%20County%20are%20a%20program%20of%20Mental%20Health%20Partners." target="_blank">

A sense of routine and normalcy help children to feel that even though things have changed, there’s a lot that’s still the same. They can rely on the predictability of knowing what will happen, even if much in their lives is different. Even if some of their recreation programs aren’t happening, it’s helpful to get kids together with the other children they were in the program with.

Expect that children might revert to younger habits, or bad habits. It’s okay to nurture a child in a way that seems no longer age appropriate, especially at stressful times.

Modeling appropriate reactions. This means talking and expressing feelings, instead of shutting down. This can be especially hard when an adult is feeling overwhelmed or discouraged themselves, but needing to reassure a child can be the extra something that allows expressing those feelings possible. It’s a chance to share how to express and accept what they are feel “Make sure they get enough exercise,” but any sort of play that helps you laugh, and relax is a way for everyone to feel better.

It is very important to take care of yourself. Parents can burn out. If a child has had a really tough time of it, perhaps they need someone else to talk to, a social worker or psychologist might be what they need in this hard time after the flood. Or the family might need a break from each other; a visit to grandparents or cousins might be in order, or a day summer camp might be a good idea.

Lyons Park & Rec. is offering a Lyons Youth Summer Series for ages 11 to 15, Thursdays June 12 and 19, and July 15 and 22 this summer. The series is based on the mindfulness curriculum taught at Lyons Middle School this year. The day will include mindfulness, yoga, lunch, and a chance to do a project giving back to the community. RSVP needed by one week before the day kids want to go. For questions or to RSVP contact Adriana Blacker, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or 303-823-8250 extension 16.

The Lyons and Environs team covers the area from Hygiene to the Larimer County border. We can be reached at (720) 226-8709, on our Facebook page, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., LyonsAndEnvirons, or by dropping by our offices at 431 Main Street between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Colorado Spirit Teams in Boulder County are a program of Mental Health Partners.