How to help children cope with the holidays after Harvey

HOUSTON – The holidays are here, but not everyone is back to normal after Hurricane Harvey.

One Kelsey-Seybold pediatrician said that's especially true for children, who often show signs of stress in subtle ways and can feel even more hurt when holiday traditions cease to exist.

“The holidays can trigger a lot,” Dr. Helene Sheena said.

Many times, she said, parents don't recognize that physical or behavioral complaints are coming from emotional trauma.

“You might be living in a different part of the city, going to a different school, so really having more than one factor causing stress can maybe cause the stress to last longer,” Sheena said.

Withdrawing from school, activities or being defiant are all possible results of stress.

“With a teenager, you may be looking at one who's applying for college and with all of the days that they've missed from school, college applications may be delayed,” she explained. “Versus a young child that may not be able to express what's going on but they may be a little more clingy, still wanting to sleep with mom or dad.”

Holidays may add to it.

“Maybe you had always had a special dinner at grandma's house but grandma's house is damaged,” Sheena said. “Also there may be some big special gift that somebody was looking forward to and that may not be something that will be available this year because instead of being able to get something that's really large they may be going more into buying new furniture, putting up sheetrock.”

She said studies after other major disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, show children can have problems up to two years after an event. So, Sheena says communicating with your child is critical, she recommends explaining the importance of the holiday and not focusing on big presents this year.

Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 7p.m., San Jacinto Girl Scouts will conduct a Facebook live event where they're focusing on healing and holidays in the aftermath of Harvey. You can submit questions if you're worried about a child.