Natural disasters happen, but in recent months they seem to be in the news a lot more. Whether you are talking about fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, or something else, they impact children in our schools. Kids across the country are living through these events and others have family members who may be dealing with the destruction. School therapists must be ready, willing, and able to reach out to kids to talk about this tough topic.
How do we help these children who are likely experiencing feelings and trauma that need attention? The answer is that we must make sure there are enough therapists in all areas which need them. What we have learned after Hurricane Katrina is that kids who thrive in the long term are those that receive these resources.
Kids Living Through Chaos
Those who have lived through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina state that one of the hardest parts is being able to mentally cope with being displaced. Many note that they had a hard time finding something or someone who they were able to hold onto. This brought back feelings of distress from the flooding and having to let go of their lives.
Children in many of these areas have next to no personal items left. Their homes may be standing, but are inhabitable from water damage. Some may have also lost loved ones during the storm or after from flooding. School districts may span over large parts of a region. It is possible for some students to be fine, while others are facing an overwhelming change in their life.
Schools must reach out to students and families. They need to check in with everyone to see if they are safe, where they are living, and what supports they may. Reach out to other areas that have had this happen in the past. Hire additional therapists to work with students and families. If they are struggling with life outside of school, they are not going to be able to concentrate academically.
Feeling Helpless from a Distance
Students outside of areas that have had natural disasters may also be impacted by all of this. Children may have families in Puerto Rico, Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, Mexico, or another location that has had recent catastrophic damage. These kids may be unaware of how their families are or feel guilty because they are fine and others lost everything. Communicate to families that they should reach out to school counselors so they can talk to students. If children are older, they may want to do something in your school community to give back to others. This is a great way for them to help others and get involved.
Does your school have a plan on how to help children who have lived through a natural disaster? If you do not, it may be the right time to bring this up at team meetings in order to have something set up in case an emergency happens in your area. If you do have one, please share in the comments section below how your school and community work together to help kids.