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Keeping mental health in focus in case of a hurricane

Expert advice to keep children calm during a storm
Posted at 11:44 AM, Oct 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-10 12:01:54-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Jenn and Alex Arreola in Jupiter Farms have done a lot of work in recent years to help their home and their horses on property better stand up to a storm. But getting their two young children to stay calm during nasty weather is a different front.

"She wants to know everything and have her contingency plans," Jenn said while describing her daughter.

"I think you can't put out that stress, because they will feel that and make them more anxious," Alex said about his efforts to keep his children calm during a storm.

That thought is echoed by licensed therapist at the Center for Child Counseling Darla Mullenix.

"You'll show them through your own body language, verbal, and non-verbal cues," Mullenix said.

Mullenix added it's important to talk to children about a storm well before it hits.

"Asking them questions. What are they most scared of if a storm hits?" Mullenix said. "Is it loud noises? Is it power outages?"

Mullenix said to validate concerns coming from children and make sure you're in close proximity while having that discussion.

"It's going to give that sense of connection and show them you are really trying to understand," Mullenix said.

It's helpful to watch for warning signs like changes in eating or sleeping habits or if a child is withdrawn at work or school, according to Mullenix.

The Arreola family finds it helpful to involve children in storm preparations, like buying supplies or shoring up the home.

Mullenix said to limit media exposure for children during a storm, and as the adult in the room, identify a trusted family member, friend, or mental health professional to turn to in case storm stress becomes overwhelming.