Holidays after Harvey: How to help children cope

HOUSTONCommunities in Schools is an organization to help keep kids in school.

The organization has experience with kids and hurricanes. Its staff worked with children after Hurricane Katrina.

It recognizes the same stressed-out behaviors in kids affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Judith Maldonado said her twin boys are in a new school district and staying in other families’ homes since Harvey. So the holidays are not the same.

“Everything was left behind at the house. I (even) have to buy a brand new Christmas tree and decorations and stuff,” she said.

Her boys hold on to every painful memory of the hurricane.

“We left on a boat and there was the van that was tall and the water was almost as tall as it. We had to get out and go to our friends house and then we went with our mom and then we saw the house and me and my brother was kind of sad because we wouldn't see our friends,” Maldonado’s son said.

In a new school, without any of their old friends, the boys seemed withdrawn. So Maldonado had them speak with Mary Pizana, from Communities in Schools.

“Them getting more involved with the staff has brought them a lot of joy,” she said. “I feel like they're happier in school.”

Communities in Schools said more students are internalizing anxiety and stress because they see their parents overwhelmed and don't want to burden mom and dad. 
 
Pizana said that can lead to excessive worrying or forgetfulness. She suggests parents talk to their kids, even discussing ordinary activities can bring them comfort.

“Make sure to set daily routines with your children so that the children know what's going to happen that day,” Pizana said.

She said encouraging them to keep routines will help them see a better future.

“This year's different, because of what happened, but we're moving forward and we're trying to make sure that next year will be a lot better,” Pizana said.

Maldonado said repeating that helps her too. “Next year things will be back to normal,” she said.

It may be helping them. They should be in a new home next month with their baby sister.

Pizana said continuing to be open and communicate about their plans, even if it's written down for kids, will help.

Communities in Schools recommends this resource for parents needing counseling for kids: https://www.depelchin.org/counseling/.