Nov 02 2012
Nov 01 2012

Children and Storm Stress - Helping kids deal with the distress of natural disasters

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor

Monster storms like Hurricanes, Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Floods, Blizzards, Forest Fires and Mud Slides destroy more than communities- they destroy emotional security and stability in the lives of everyone impacted by these critical incidents, especially children. Equipping counselors with response techniques is essential so they can make a positive difference during the rebuilding process. Here are some key elements to know in serving children who have been emotionally traumatized by natural disasters.

How are children affected?

It depends on the age of the child. The younger the child, the more they look to their parents for emotional security and strength. If a parent is “shell-shocked" or psychologically “numb” and not able to manage their own emotions or responsibilities; the child feels even more pressure and becomes more confused and stressed. Remember, it's normal to be overwhelmed by a major natural disaster, which is why it's so important for caregivers to take care of themselves in order to effectively take care of children through the months of recovery and rebuilding after the storm.

Focus on the needs of Younger children by noticing what they are saying, drawing or doing to determine if they are feeling stressed from the storm. (Very small children may display developmentally inappropriate or delayed behavior which may require medical or psychiatric intervention).

School age kids need to talk, draw or take positive action, (like kids who didn’t lose their homes hosting a lemonade stand to raise money for kids just like them who lost everything during the disaster). If you give them something to do to help, they can take positive action and sort through their emotions immediately.

High school age kids may try to act "cool", yet are often more scared about the changes and losses than any other group. They may need to experience a bit more "reality" at times to open up their ability to talk about what is happening around them. If the situation is stable enough, older teens can help in neighborhood clean up, which connects them to others in the important task of rebuilding after the storm. Another approach is to see if they are willing to talk with peers, siblings or family members, to build confidence in expressing their stressful emotions to others.

Be alert for dramatic changes in behavior, such as a ‘happy-go-lucky’ child before the storm who now continually watches world disasters on the news. Focus on any dramatic shifts in personality. Watch for major changes in sleep, dietary or appetite patterns, school performance, peer relations and so on. If you see major changes, seek professional assessment with a pediatrician, child behavioral specialist or psychologist.(See a full list of warning signs at

What are some ways to help kids talk about storm stress?

Reach out to children on whichever level is most likely to connect. Talking, writing, drawing, even making up a song or puppet show about the impact of the disaster will lighten someone's emotional pain by watching or talking about their experience. Some families use newspapers as a discussion starter, since talking about any crisis event can help kids gain confidence to move from the panic of survival to move toward building strength after the storm.

Are there “hidden media dangers” that make storm stress worse?

Media overexposure is dangerous to kids, so avoid this by limiting TV news updates. Children or adults have experienced media overexposure when they show a depressed mood; or by going "numb" to normal emotions associated with stressful events, (e.g. no compassion or inappropriate laughter). Carefully sort through media outlets-like TV, Internet, radio or newspapers, to screen out stressful or inappropriate content that would be depressing to a child. Set boundaries during the rebuilding process to protect them from additional stress in media, since it is important to protect the safety of their home and minds by managing media exposure.

Watching catastrophic problems in other parts of the world causes more stress in an already stressful situation because you don’t have the power to control the very sad stories caused by these disasters. That’s why it is wise to move from negatives to positives images during highly publicized disasters like Hurricane Katrina.Parents should sit down and discuss the impact of media and create limits on any stressful images that might further stress their children. Some families without electricity discovered that not having the distractions of Internet, cable television or loud music playing in their homes allowed them to reconnect as a family on many levels. Openly discuss these issues so that home becomes a more positive place with more energy to mange the stress from this disaster without making things harder from the hidden stress of media overexposure.

Is it okay to talk about what happened to our family with others?

Silence is not golden in a critical incident, it's dangerous. One of the best things to help yourself as well as others is to tell your story. Talk about where you were when the storm hit. Use this same technique to help kids talk about how they made it through the natural disaster, then add the powerful element of sensory recall by asking about what the storm sounded like, smelled like, looked like, felt like or even tasted like! Listening to the stories of others who survived brings emotional recovery faster.

This is important for everyone involved, kids, grandparents, Mom, dads, employees, employers, firefighters, police officers, nurses, teachers, students and on and on. Everyone has a story about how they survived the killer storm and telling it helps them heal while giving others a chance to connect to family, neighbors and coworkers in a powerful way. Also, ask others, including pastors, or people helpers like counselors and nurses since many times these professionals are so busy reaching out to meet the needs of others, they neglect to take time to deal with the storm stress in their own life.

It's normal to be tired, worn out and stressed after a natural disaster however it's not okay to ignore caring for your own needs as a counselor. Anyone impacted by natural disasters may need to change their schedules for a while in order to take care of their own mental health.Helping kids is important, however if your caregiver tank is empty, let someone else help until your strength comes back. That's best for you and those you care about since it prevents the psychological burnout caused by Storm Stress.

Reprint Permission- If this article was helpful you are invited to share it electronically or in print with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint and thanks for helping us to help others by spreading the word. "Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group, eNews (Copyright, 2004-2012, by the LifeWorks Group)"

Author Bio

Dwight Bain has dedicated his life to guide people toward
greater results as an Author, Nationally Certified Counselor and Certified Life Coach in practice since 1984. He has spoken to over 3,000 groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress. He is passionate about positive growth and is quoted in over 20 personal development books. His goal is to make a positive difference in our culture every day for Christ.

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Oct 31 2012

Special Guest Phil Zielke

We were able to serve along side Phil Zielke, Executive Director of Phil's Friends, the few days and got to talk with him.


Phil's Story 

Someone By Your Side

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Oct 09 2013

God Uses K-LOVE to Save a Marriage

We love hearing stories of how the Lord is changing lives through K-LOVE! Today we heard from Marcy and she shared how her marriage was healed and how her husband saved, all because they listened to K-LOVE. God is using you and K-LOVE, to make a positive impact!

Oct 03 2013

Taking a Step Out in Faith

Maybe it's time for you to step out in faith like Sandra! Stepping out in faith makes a difference not only for others, but for you as well. 

"My coworker introduced me to K-LOVE when I first started working at my current job about 4 1/2 years ago. I am grateful that my coworker introduced me to klove. When I was nineteen, I became sick and was in ICU for over a week. During this week, I barely knew what was going on; I do however remember asking my mom to turn on klove. During my darkest hours, K-LOVE was there to uplift my spirits, all along while God was performing a miracle. I have always wanted to give, but never stepped out and gave. For 4 1/2 years you have blessed my coworker and I with songs, stories, and encouragement to make it throughout hard, stressful days. I give to K-LOVE not only because it has helped me with my walk, but I see where it has helped others. Much love and thanks to K-LOVE!"  

Thank you Sandra! Thank you for praying about what you can do to impact the lives of listeners like Sandra and then call and make a pledge at 1-800-525-5683 or give online at!

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Oct 02 2013

How God used K-LOVE in Donna's Life

Everyday we here amazing stories of how God uses the ministry of K-LOVE, it wouldn't be possible without the support of listeners just like you. We believe that 'hope changes everything,' and this note from Donna about how God has used the station in here life, is proof.

"I started listening to K-love in 2010 and gave my first pledge in the spring pledge drive in 2012. I went through my daughter being killed in a semi-truck in January 2012 and then my marriage of 12 years ended in April 2012 because my husband said he never loved me, but through it all K-LOVE was there; encouraging me. I am praising God every day for the fact I get up every morning and turn on K-LOVE and am encouraged to keep on keeping on. I believe that God causes all things to work together for our good. The Lord uses an encouraging word by a DJ or a song at just the right time, and boy it makes a big difference to know God is always there no matter what comes our way.

I know how important it is to continue to support K-LOVE so others can have K-LOVE to help encourage them in the goodness and mercy of Our Father God."

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