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How to Calm a Stressed Child During or After a Storm

A Guide for Parents and Familes in Natural Disaster Regions


It was a time of loss. Some lost their lives. Others lost their dreams. Many lost their hope.

As the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches at the end of August, 2006, many are reflective about the effect Katrina had on their lives. Many do not consider the anniversary a celebration at all. In fact, it can bring days, weeks or even months of anxiety, anger, nightmares, flashbacks, depression or fear.

While some may consider the anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters on record a new day of hope, others are not as hopeful. Many people, especially children, still suffer from the after-effects of living through a natural disaster. There are several warning signs to look for in children of varying ages in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina Anniversary Stress Warning Signs in Children

Young Children 1-6 years old

  • Helplessness and a lack of usual responsiveness
  • Difficulty talking about event
  • Nightmares and other sleep disturbances
  • Separation fears and clinging to caregivers
  • Bedwetting or loss of motor and speech skills
  • Anxieties about death
  • Frequent complaints of stomach aches, headaches, etc.
  • Sudden immobility of the body or “freezing”
School-aged Children 6-11 years old

  • Feelings of responsibility and guilt
  • Repetitious traumatic play and retelling
  • Nightmares and sleep disturbances
  • Preoccupations with danger and safety
  • Changes in behavior
  • Aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
  • Withdrawal
  • Fear of being left alone
  • Listlessness and disinterest in everyday activities
  • Lack of understanding of the hurricane
Pre-adolescents and Adolescents 12-18 years old

  • Rebellion at home or school
  • Abrupt shift in relationships
  • Depression and social withdrawal
  • Decline in school performance
  • Social withdrawal or excessive socialness
  • Revenge seeking behaviors
  • Sleep and eating disturbances
If your family needs more assistance, trained counsels at Project Recovery can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-866-856-3227. For more information, be sure to visit the About.com Guide to Psychology for an article on common reactions to a crisis.


Project Recovery is funded through a grant by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and facilitated with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The project is a division of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.

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