NATURAL DISASTERS OFTEN BRING FAMILY STRESS

Lines By Leanne
March 22, 2019

Natural disasters, such as the recent severe storms and flooding in Nebraska, often lead to extreme stress for families.  It is common for people to feel irritable, anxious, helpless and overwhelmed.  Tempers may flare during times of stress, affecting relationships in the family. You may feel that you are losing not only material things, but also the support of your family as well.

Problems between couples are typical during times of great stress. No two people are likely to have the same reaction to a situation, so it is not surprising that tension may result from their differing reactions.

When you start to feel overwhelmed, it can be helpful to practice deep breathing. Count to 10 or to 100 if necessary and let your family know if you feel near the breaking point emotionally. Family members who can ask for and accept help from others will be better able to deal with extreme stress and help in supporting the family.

Children may also suffer from the stress of a natural disaster. They may see their parents and other adults feeling overwhelmed. Even though it may not make sense, young children can feel that they are to blame for the stress. Infants may become clingier and irritable. Preschoolers and kindergarteners may return to behaviors they have outgrown like toileting accidents, being frightened of separation from parents, or bedwetting.  They may have tantrums or have a hard time sleeping. It is important to tell children that you love them and that you will take care of them.  Provide opportunities for children to talk about it and encourage them to share concerns and ask questions.

Helpful phone numbers to call include:

Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Nebraska Family Helpline, 1-888-866-8660

Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, 1-800-464-0258

The Boys Town National Helpline, 1-800-448-3000

Source:  Nebraska Extension Learning Child Team at child.unl.edu