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Dealing with Storm Aftermath – Look for Warning Signs in Kids

June 6, 2011

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Regular monthly tests of tornado sirens can put many people on the edge of their seats because of recent events. And it's not just adults. Children can be especially affected by television coverage of disasters, such as the tornadoes ravaging Joplin and Tuscaloosa, or the raging floodwater in Tennessee.

Mary Elizabeth Curtner-Smith, associate professor of human development and family studies at the University of Alabama, was just two miles from the tornado in Tuscaloosa. She says it's important to limit how much disaster coverage a child watches.

"When they simply see replays of the Tuscaloosa tornado, young children may not understand that it's just video being replayed. They may think that it's actually occurring as many times as they see it on TV."

Curtner-Smith says spending quality time with childen is especially important when such fears arise.

"At bedtime, maybe parents can spend more time reading a book together, listening to some music together, being with a child while he or she falls asleep."

Curtner-Smith says adults need to look for signs of stress, fear and feelings of anxiety in children. For example, they can have a hard time concentrating, they can become irritable or angry, or their sleeping patterns could change.

Attachment Parenting International (API) developed some resources for parents in response to the recent earthquake in New Zealand. They are available online at Support also may be available from local API support groups.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - TN