Talking to Kids About Hurricane Matthew

Tips from the Child Guidance Center to help you talk with your children about Hurricane Matthew.

  1. Consider your own emotions about the hurricane before you talk to your kids. As adults, we can’t help kids cope with their feelings unless we have dealt with ours first. Kids look to adults to help them understand the meaning of the storm and the damage that occurred. We need to have our own emotions in check so we can be available to help our kids cope.
  2. Remember the importance of talking and listening when initiating a discussion about the hurricane.  Ask your kids what they think about the storm and ask open ended questions. “Tell me what you think about the storm. What have you talked about in school? How do you think people handled the storm and the power being out for so long? Tell me about some of the things that happened to your friends.”
  3. Timing is important. Talking during the day is usually better then talking at night. Most kids are more tired at the end of the day and have less energy to cope with heavy topics.
  4. Recognize that kids may need help putting their feelings into words. Kids may have difficulty expressing their feelings, and we can help by giving their feelings a voice. “What I hear you saying is that you are still confused and scared about the storm and you worry it may come back. Sometimes we have more than one feeling about something like this. Let’s try to figure this out.”
  5. Reassure kids about their personal safety. Some kids will have lingering fears about their safety. Let them know there are procedures in place to ensure all of our safety concerning the weather. Let them know there are experts who watch the weather, let us know if dangerous weather is coming, and there are safe places to be if needed. Reassure them that there are officials whose job it is to keep us all safe, such as police officers and fire rescue personnel.
  6. Monitor television viewing. Many networks will be showing footage of damaged areas or advertising the weather news teams.  Reassure them that what they are seeing on television happened last week, (or month), and is not happening all over again.
  7. Remember the positives. Help yourself and your kids remember that, most importantly, people are safe. Whatever damage you suffered, help your kids remember it could have been worse. Help them see that buildings can be repaired, power can be restored, but our loved ones are what is most important.
  8. Plan for a period of adjustment. It is normal for kids to show signs of trauma such as crying, clinginess, irritability, poor sleeping and eating, excessive focus or denial of the storm. Typically these behaviors resolve themselves over a few weeks. Be sure to make time to spend some extra attention on your kids to help ease the adjustment.
  9. If you are concerned about your child, talk with a CHILL counselor. Some kids may still be having a hard time adjusting even after a few weeks. If your child seems to be having prolonged difficulty, consider consulting with the CHILL counselor at your child’s school to help your child resolve their feelings.
  10. Remember hugs and support help everyone feel better.