Expert Offers Tips to Help Children Cope with Disasters

As residents pick up the pieces after a storm spawning tornadoes tore through the state Sunday, children who witnessed the destruction may be trying to make sense of what they saw. President and C-E-O of the Indiana Youth Institute Bill Stanczykiewicz says first and foremost, adults should listen to the child, hear their concerns and take them seriously.

If your child is acting reserved, Stanczykiewicz suggests asking them questions about their day, or something else to get them talking in case they are bottling up any anxieties. On Monday, the National Weather Service confirmed nine tornadoes touched down in Indiana, but survey teams across the state are still working and gathering data. The storm system swept across six states, spawned more than 80 tornadoes and killed at least eight people.

“Let them know that feeling scared, feeling worried during a tornado or its aftermath is very natural. And if you feel some fear yourself, it’s OK to let your child know. That’s a very reassuring thing for a child to hear. Also to reassure them that you’re going to be there with them along the way.”

Now that the tornadoes have come and gone, Stanczykiewicz says it’s a good time to teach children about service to others, whether it’s raising money for those impacted by the storms or sending a thank-you note to public safety workers.

“Giving kids something to do like that helps them feel a better sense of control, a better sense of calm that they’re now being part of the solution despite all of the tragedy and destruction that they are seeing around them.”