Pediatric psychologist offers tips to help children through trauma of natural disasters

Over the last week,  websites, television, and social media have been full of videos and posts about the devastation, including the death count.
Estill County Flooding
Estill County Flooding

EASTERN KENTUCKY (WTVQ)- We’re seeing the impacts natural disasters, like the flooding in eastern Kentucky, can have on communities both physically and emotionally.
And psychologists say this could have a heavy toll on adults and children.

Over the last week,  websites, television, and social media have been full of videos and posts about the devastation, including the death count.
Experts say children are especially vulnerable during natural disasters and it can have an impact on their mental health.

“We do know that often as adults, we make guesses about how our kids are thinking, feeling, and we often guess wrong,” said Dr. Meghan Marsac, a pediatric psychologist for the University of Kentucky.

Marsac says it’s important for parents to check on their kids following a traumatic even. They should also put limit their children’s exposure to what’s going on. With the new school year approaching, Marsac says its equally important to provide children with the information you want them to have and prepare them for what they might hear from others.

“So being honest with your child about what to expect if you know that if a classmate has died or family members have died, just be honest and help them think about strategies for dealing with those kinds of things,” said Marsac.

Marsac says there are several signs that parents need to watch out for in kids dealing with trauma, including changes in sleep patterns, activity interests, and self-harm..

“I think for different kids, it might come out differently. For some kids, sometimes we see nightmares, or trouble falling asleep, trouble settling. Sometimes we see kids right after natural disasters struggle a little bit in school, being able to focus on their learning,” said Marsac.

She says ultimately it’s important for parents to be there for their kids. Parents should help their children return to as normal of a routine as possible.

Schools and other resources will be offering counseling for children.
Governor Andy Beshear on Wednesday, encouraging the community to lean on each other. The governor also encouraging first responders and volunteers to get help when needed .

“If you need help, ask for it. Remember its okay not to be okay. I don’t think our brains are designed or hearts are designed to deal with trauma and loss at this level,” said Governor Beshear.

Beshear says counselors are helping people at many shelters and state parks. They’re also on stand by for first responders, adults, and children. The governor says it will be an ongoing mission to make sure mental health resources are available in the coming months.

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