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Weathering the storm:
How change affects families

Kim Allen, former State Specialist, & Sarah Harr, former Intern, Human Development & Family Studies, University of Missouri Extension


Video Clip


Families who weather a particularly bad storm are likely to experience stress. Any time there is an undesired change, there is potential for stress. When children are involved, it is important that parents understand the affects of such stress and to know what they can do to help their family cope.

Emotional reactions differ from person to person, depending on their experiences and temperament and depending on the severity of the storm. Some may feel as though a storm was traumatic while others might see it as much less significant. For children, any change can be stressful, especially prolonged changes. Parents can tell a lot about their child’s mental wellness by observing their behavior.

Signs of stress may include:

  • Changes of habits (eating, sleeping, anything out of the ordinary)
  • Regressive behavior
  • Sleeplessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Poor eye contact
  • Fidgeting

Although we all experience stress from time to time, prolonged stress can have short or long-term effects on children. Parents can take steps to reduce stress and help their children cope in these ways:

Try to have fun and remain positive. Although we cannot control the weather, we can certainly control our reaction to it.

Talk about feelings, normalize the situation and LISTEN. Giving children permission to talk about the stressful events can help them process and understand what they are feeling.

Talk about what is happening, and what is expected to happen. We may not know when the electricity will return, but we can explain that the situation is temporary and reassure children that they are safe.

Be supportive. This is a time of uncertainty, and children are likely to need extra affection and nurturing. This is a time to work through issues with patience and understanding.

Remain consistent. Keeping a routine helps children feel that they are supported and safe, so let them know what is going to happen, and stick to a schedule whenever possible.

Involve children in finding solutions. When children are feeling irritable, it can be comforting for them to help in the decision-making process. Perhaps they can decide which game to play or decide which food to eat.

Take care of yourself. It is much easier to be a supportive parent when we take time for ourselves. This includes getting plenty of exercise and eating well.

Utilize external support. Many families find situations such as these as a time for bonding. If you need help, reach out and ask for it.


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Last update: Monday, July 11, 2011