How to calm your child's anxiety while prepping for hurricane

Youth Crisis Center offers advice on how to talk to kids about natural disasters

By Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Understanding and coping with the damage left behind by hurricanes Matthew and Harvey is difficult enough for adults. For our youngest ones, the images and videos of flood-ravaged homes can be even more traumatic.

So how do you talk to your children about a natural disaster? News4Jax has the best ways to calm your child’s anxiety as you’re prepping for Hurricane Irma.

There’s a lot to consider in the days approaching a storm: shopping for hurricane supplies, filling up your gas tanks and planning an evacuation route. It can get stressful.

But Kim Sirdevan, CEO of the Youth Crisis Center, advises that you need to stay calm around your children.

"If you’re stressed, if you’re panicked, and they’re not understanding, they’re going to take those symptoms on as well," Sirdevan said. 

Part of your storm preparations should include a conversation with your children.

"Letting them know that mommy has to go to a new place, we’re going to be safe as a family, we have a plan, share what that plan is," Sirdevan said.

Invite your children to help out in the process. They can help you check off your supply list and pack a survival kit. Ask them to think about their favorite toy, book, or blanket -- those are all things to consider packing into your child’s supply kit.

While you’re grocery shopping, ask them about their favorite snacks, juice or comfort food.

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Ease their anxiety by limiting their exposure to the news, whether it’s on TV or social media. Try and stay updated on the storm through your phone, weather apps or radio.

'When the children are watching the devastation in the different areas, those are lasting imprints in their mind -- even though they may not be understanding," Sirdevan said. "They’re seeing something and without understanding what’s going on. It can be quite frightening."

It’s also important to watch out for red flags that indicate your child may be having trouble coping.

"If you start to notice that they’re having nightmares, or are a little more clingy than they were prior to the disaster or if they seem withdrawn," Siredvan said.

These changes are all reasons to take advantage of the counselors and services that are available at the Youth Crisis Center by calling 904-725-6662. Sirdevan said the counseling services are free.

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