Children cope with storm anxiety 2 years after tornado outbreak - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Children cope with storm anxiety 2 years after tornado outbreak


As the second anniversary of the April 27th storm outbreak approaches, many people are still suffering. Those who lost loved ones, homes, businesses or property are still dealing with the aftermath.

But some victims weren't physically harmed. They didn't lose their home or loved ones. But their scars are still fresh. 

Children who hunkered down in storm shelters, hid in closets and school hallways, then lived without power for days and saw the aftermath of the storms on television are now suffering from anxiety, jitters, even post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Yvette Coley-Smith is a school counselor who says she's seen students still trying to cope. "Whenever we have a traumatic even in our community, it's going to impact people." she said. "It impacts people differently, but children of course, feel that through the people they're around. Sometimes in school, when we talk about those things, they'll hear friends talking about things, and it makes them more anxious." 

Coley-Smith said that's something she and other counselors are specially trained to handle.

"We develop a plan, where we have children who might need that extra bit of special attention. That's what we're trained to do as counselors, and sometimes those kids come sit with me and we go through that just to get some of those emotions out."

Parents may notice changes in a child's mood or behavior, especially when the weather looks threatening. They may have nightmares about storms, or have problems focusing and sleeping.

"Everybody is different. Everybody is going to experience that change and trauma differently." Coley-Smith said. "Some people they may be over it very quickly and they may move on, but others, it lingers for a while. As adults, we have to recognize - which of those children is acting different because something might happen? And if they're acting different, that's where we intervene."

Talking with your child's teacher can shed light on their behavior as well. From there, teachers and other school administrators can help you get in touch with school counselors trained to work with young children facing issues.

Coley-Smith says some parents may be unsure about school-based counselors handling these issues in their child. However, it's all connected, she said.

"If a child is not emotionally stable, they're not going to do well in school," she explained.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has several tips for parents to help children coping with traumatic memories : 

  • Reassure them that you'll do everything you can to keep them and their loved ones safe.
  • Encourage them to talk and ask questions
  • Let them know that they can be open about their feelings.
  • Answer questions honestly.
  • Protect them from what they don't need to know.
  • Avoid discussing worst-case scenarios.
  • Limit excessive watching and listening to graphic replays of the traumatic event
  • Stick to your daily routine as much as possible.
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