Nov 06

Supporting Children, Families and Yourselves in the Aftermath of Sandy

Posted by Valentine Burr in Fair Is Not Equal on Nov 06, 2012

As school resumes this week for most in the New Jersey and New York areas, and beyond, we have been thinking about the needs of children, families and teachers during this time. The Northeast coast and inland from Virginia to Massachusetts were impacted to varying degrees. As residents of New York City, we are acutely aware of the fact that while some suffered incredible devastation, for others the storm had relatively little impact beyond a few extra days at home.

In your classrooms you may have children who have experienced intense trauma and students whose lives were relatively unaffected side-by-side. You yourself may be negotiating difficult circumstances while you try to get back to work. Even adults and children not directly affected have likely heard and seen the news, including terrifying images of homes destroyed and people in great suffering. The extended radius of family, friends and colleagues means that likely most of us in the region feel the devastation of this storm if not directly, then indirectly through the experiences of loved ones.

There are some wonderful resources that exist on supporting children and families through traumatic events. See below for a list of sites. One of the main themes that run through these is that while a return to predictable routines and schedules is an important part of returning to a sense of safety, it is also essential that the drive to “carry on” not get in the way of time for kids and adults alike to process. Kids may need to talk, draw, play-out their experiences. They need a balance of assurance that the storm is over and life is rebuilding, while at the same time acknowledgement that everything may not yet be better. We need to understand too that children will carry a range of reactions from anger, to sadness, to anxiety, to indifference, while for other children the storm might have been “awesome” because they got to sleep in and hang out. Many students will have trouble understanding the depth of the crisis or may have seen troubling news that is frightening, yet abstract. As teachers you have to hold and honor and manage that range of reactions.

Because of this emotional load, check in with and take care of yourself. Ask for help and resources if you need it, help in your personal life as well as help in your classrooms and with your students. If you have students who have experienced real trauma, you may very well need assistance from counselors, administrators and others.

Our thoughts are with all of you, and your students and families during this time.

Some Useful Resources

National Association for the Education of Young Children has an excellent section on their website devoted to helping children cope with disaster. 

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has resources specific to recovery after hurricanes. 

The American Red Cross has resources focused on children’s responses to disaster. 

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has a page dedicated to helping families support their children after a disaster. 

NYCDOE has links to crisis resources and assistance for children and families.

Our Bank Street colleague, Lesley Koplow, has written a wonderful post on talking to kids about Hurricane Sandy with strategies and resources. 

Elementary students and teenagers may want to become involved with volunteer efforts. For the New York area, WNYC has a list of organizations and ways to get involved. Check your own local public agencies for similar lists for your community.

If you know of other great resources for teachers, parents and children, send them our way. We will post and share.

tagged disaster, hurricane sandy, resources, trauma
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