November 6, 2012

After Sandy: Mitigating Anxiety In Children


Practical Ideas From The Executive Director Of The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM)

By Andrew Ackerman


Photo by Becca Nelson

[Editor's Note: Whether your day-to-day life was destroyed by Sandy or merely inconvenienced, there may be some lingering anxiety (to say the least) among adults and children alike. Andrew Ackerman, the Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM), gave us some practical advice for how parents can help their children move forward feeling less anxious and more secure.]

Beyond the physical rebuilding of our city after Hurricane Sandy, we must also care for children who need to be fortified emotionally. Traumatic experiences can stay with kids for a long time. Below are some ways to equip parents with the necessary tools to mitigate anxiety, provide a stabilizing sense of normalcy, and ensure kids know they are safe.

Communication: Conversation should be honest, but brief. Children should know the storm is over and cleanup is well underway.

Re-establish Routines: Routine is important in children’s lives because it assures them that life goes on and is to be enjoyed. Most school-age children have returned to school this week, helping the return to normalcy.

Keep Busy: Hands-on art activities, playing, reading, and writing also help ease the long-term impact of trauma. Reading out loud is fun for kids of any age and a great way to spend some time.

Give Back: Children also feel empowered when they can help. This is a good time to go through closets and find items that are in good condition that will be welcomed by others who have lost so much. Find out where you can donate clothes, food, or toys in your neighborhood.

Give Thanks: Talk to your children about their own good fortune and reflect on the positive in their lives. 

Bedtime: Bedtime can be a particular time of anxiety for children following trauma. Reading, cuddling, and making sure children know they are loved will hopefully ensure a good night’s sleep and a strong sense of security.

Self expression/Reflection: Create opportunities for children to dream about better times and about ways to improve their city and the lives of others. Activities like writing, drawing, and block building to help kids express their thoughts and concerns.

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