SUPER STORM SANDY AND ITS AFTERMATH
By now many residents on Long Island, Far Rockaway, Staten Island and the shore towns of New Jersey have recovered while countless others have a long way to go to regain some semblance of order and normalcy following the devastation brought about by the super storm of October 29th-30th. The recovery period is longer for those with significant losses (loss of life, injury, trauma, loss of property/personal items). Among those most impacted are the thousands of school aged children many of whom were displaced in high impact shoreline areas and had to relocate out of town or state. Many others were forced to move to temporary shelters where they still reside today. It is important that parents and teachers continue offering reassurance and support for children during this extended period of uncertainly. Kids are likely to be expressive. Encourage and embrace them in this process whenever possible. Allowing them to draw, paint or write to externalize feelings in a supportive environment is therapeutic. Gently encourage yet do not insist they talk or be expressive. Remember this super storm is not in the range of a normal or typical human experience and as such brings with it the real concern that some (children and adults alike) may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. If possible ensure that children have personal belongings and favorite toys or stuffed animals, especially if they are displaced. These small gestures can be quite comforting. For adults learning to balance the sharing of a healthy dose of the truth with kids while shielding them from unnecessary and repetitive exposure to the constant visual images of devastation is a delicate task. Learning to guide children into the realm of empathy for friends who may have significant losses is a valuable life lesson. Sharing stories of how others have previously persevered are useful as well. (Hurricane Katrina etc.) Provide frequent hugs to promote a much needed sense of safety and caring. Use age appropriate language and examples to provide answers to questions about uncertain time frames. i.e., how long is it going to take until we can move back in our house? "It may take about 10 more times of watching Sponge Bob or having dinner etc. For parents self-care is crucial during these turbulent times. Being equipped to be "present" in the here and now to help children is contingent on your ability to address your own fears and concerns by venting in appropriate forums with others including friends, family and colleagues or if possible with trained mental health professionals One thing is certain, this region has never had to deal with a natural disaster of this magnitude and while it is truly heartwarming to see such an outpouring of community pride, combined with local, state and federal assistance and volunteerism; some communities will continue to deal with the aftermath for months or even years to come. Please lend a hand to others; there are many ways to contribute to the recovery effort.