Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Helping Your Child Deal with Natural Disaster

The recent natural disasters that have hit our area are something none of us could prevent. Not having control over a situation is not necessarily something many of us as human beings take well. Cranford, home of Alluem Yoga, was hit hard and no matter how you may have been affected - a couple inches of water in your basement or a couple of feet on your first floor - we were all affected. I've run into several of my students who through their young eyes, in their own voices tell me their stories. One has to imagine...is this taking a toll on even our youngest of children? Most definitely.
Staying Strong:
How can we help our children begin to deal with what is going on around them in this situation?
First, help yourself. I think about what we are told as we board an airplane. In case of an emergency, place the oxygen mask on yourself first and then on your loved ones. Ask yourself - are you okay and if you're not, what do you need to do to help you get to an okay place? Our children respond to our stress. They look to adults as guides as to what they should do in such a situation. Do we panic? Do we cry? Do we yell? Or do we stay strong and breathe, as hard as it may be? Often times we, as role models for our children, we are forced to hold it together. In the face of disaster or pain, we often muster up the strength to be the rock our children need. Of course we don't want to mask our emotions...we can be honest, yes we are sad, too, but we do what we need to do to get through it, and then in our own time and in our own way by ourselves or with a friend or family member, we grieve...and grieve we must!
Safety First:
The most important thing we must provide for our children is a feeling of safety. Reassure them and let them know they are okay. They may still be fearful and may need to stay close to you at first. Even though there is a lot to do until things are back to "normal", don't push them away. Take a moment to sit with them, let them help, and maybe even sleep in the same room as them at first. Be with them. Working together as a family unit builds strength in the household and shows children that a family that sticks together can be stronger then a natural disaster. Floods, winds, fallen trees may wreck our homes and our belongings - but nature's elements can never wreck the human spirit of a family unit. Think positively! Rise above!
Let your child express their feelings. Your children may be experiencing sadness, anger, frustration, or anxiety over the situation and they may not know how to express these feelings. You may even see them revert to past coping mechanisms - thumb sucking, bed wetting, hitting/kicking, hyper-activity, irrational fears, etc. Their eating and sleeping patterns may change causing them to become short-tempered or seemingly rude. Patience is the key. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings or even write or draw what they may be experiencing. They are just as confused and fear-filled as you may be. Make space for the ALL feelings whatever they may be without judgement. Breathe through them to reduce the anxiety. For yourself and your child - take deep breaths filling the belly and exhale slowly. Allow the anxiety to release through the breath - deep and slow.
Life Right Now:
Find gratitude. Take time each day to think of the things you are grateful for in the face of all this. Encourage your child to do the same. Much has been lost, but we still have our families and our neighbors. We still have love and strength.
For many children in the area, their places of comfort have been disturbed. Favorite toys, blankets and other sources of childhood comfort may have gotten ruined. Allow your child to morn the loss. Perhaps make a special trip to one of my favorite kid's places is needed: Build-A-Bear. The Champion Fur Kids Bear stuffed with a love, will not only be a great replacement for lost friends, but your purchase also gives back to a child in need through the Build-A-Bear Workshop Bear Hugs Foundation.
Also, many children are without a school. The board of education has mindfully placed the children in various schools throughout the area. This too may be added stress for your children (as well as yourself!). Starting a new school year with a new teacher and students can be hard enough. Again, be patient. Spend extra time after school to talk to them. Just being there for them and showing that you care can make all the difference.
For more information and guidance on getting through these challenging times, please refer to the Hurricane Relief Packet provided by the Township of Cranford: http://www.cranford.com/uploads/township/BWHurricaneIrenePacket2011.pdf
Reach out to your neighbors. Reach out to Alluem. I believe that our studio space was unharmed by the flood, because we were meant to hold this space for YOU. Come. Sit. Breathe. Just be. Take a class. Decompress. Give back to yourself. It is all about COMMUNITY. We're here for one another.
There will be a FREE Community Class with Gina - Gentle Yoga and Meditation - tomorrow, September 10th from 12:45-2:00pm. Please join us. Take this one hour and 15 minutes for yourself. Your body and mind will thank you. Namaste, friends.

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