HOUSTON – Preparing for a hurricane can be stressful and because this storm comes during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be especially so. There are real mental health concerns during this time. The storm is just another thing to deal with right now.
Dr. Staci Passe, a psychologist, runs BE SOMEONE Therapy in the Montrose area of Houston. She says because of the extra stress, our baseline for dealing with stress is already on high alert. That goes for kids and adults.
“Now we already have this priming of anxiety and stress compounded with this hurricane threat,” Passe said. “We are operating not with our full capacity. We are kinda already depleted, so we don’t have a lot of reserves to be able to access in order to manage this and cope with this in a healthy and effective way.”
1. Keep them in a structure.
“Even with all of the changes with COVID and school and hurricane, you want them to get up at a certain time, have a morning routine at a certain time each day. It’s not staying in jammies and watch cartoons just because there’s a hurricane threat,” Passe said.
Passe explained that just letting them do whatever they want will make them feel more vulnerable.
“Sometimes as parents, we think, ‘oh well we will let it slide because it’s a tough time right now.’ No, do the opposite. What they need is consistency, and knowing what to expect.”
2. Model what it looks like to cope effectively
During stressful times, we don’t want to pretend that everything is okay. Kids can feel the energy and pick up on what is going on.
“Be real and authentic with them,” she explained. “We know this is a scary and hard time. But we’ve done hard things before and we can do another hard thing. Give them some examples from the past say hey there was this challenge that came up and you killed it and this is just another mountain we can climb but we are going to come out on the other side.”
You are being realistic with them about what is going on. You are not sugar-coating what is going on but also giving them a sense of hope.
3. Parents: It’s OK to not be OK
This is a stressful time for all of us. Passe said for parents, it’s OK to show your kids that you are stressed. In fact, it might be exactly what they need to feel more secure with the world around them.
“It can be a really lonely experience for kids. Like sometimes I think we misinterpret that kids need for us to be a knight in shining armor. This is not true because that makes them feel like they are losing the battle, they are feeling weak.”
Kids might think, “Why am I feeling bad if mommy and daddy are OK?”
Passe recommends telling the entire family that we are all in this together. Remind them that you have been through other hard things and made it through and you will do it again and be alright
4. Help give kids a little sense of control
One coping mechanism is to help kids feel in control of something of their own, considering a lot of things around them are out of control. For example, get together a bag of things to do just in case the power goes out.
“We can do silhouettes shadows on the wall with flashlights, so let’s pack a flashlight, We also need a paper and pencil so you can outline your brothers on the wall. Maybe get a deck of cards together. You can elicit them in the forward-thinking the optimistic positive side of things.”
Passe said when you do this, you are preparing them for what might happen.
Additional advice for parents
When it comes to keeping yourself as parents feeling calm, Passe recommends trying to avoid constantly checking social media for news updates. She recommends finding one news source and checking that for updates without going on social media. Sometimes seeing what other people are doing will just add to your stress about the situation.