The non-violent trauma associated with being in or near a natural disaster is very real and may have more of an effect on children than you realize.

Hurricane Ian recently devastated the Southwest Florida community. While the Tampa Bay area experienced minimal effects, the non-violent trauma associated with being in or near a natural disaster is very real and may have more of an effect on children than you realize.

Tampa Bay child therapist Juli Hindsley explains that children can experience trauma-like stress due to witnessing their parents’ stress levels and seeing troubling images on media and the news. Common effects of experiencing this trauma can look like sleep disruptions, behavior regressions, irritability, and an increase in separation anxiety and panic or anxiety attacks.

“One of the largest challenges with natural disaster traumas is that the entire family and community experiences the same trauma together,” Hindsley adds. “This can make it extra challenging for a child to process their own trauma and confusion, since there is no way to ‘escape’ it.”

The St. Petersburg-based child therapist suggests limiting exposure to images and traumatic information by watching the news in private or after the child’s bedtime and to speak to other adults in a different room if the topic can be troubling. Hindsley also emphasizes the importance of answering questions openly and honestly, even if it means answering ‘I don’t know’ in unknown situations.

Hindsley adds, “Post-trauma stress from a natural disaster can linger for weeks or even months. It is helpful to check in with your children regularly to see if they have any questions or worries you can help talk through, while still limiting their exposure to dramatic images and videos of wreckage or rescue efforts.”

Counseling is one great course of action for natural disaster-related traumas. Trauma-Informed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to reduce instances of post-traumatic symptoms dramatically.

If you have questions on how the process works, or are interested in learning more about St. Petersburg children’s counseling services, visit Child & Family Therapy Center’s contact page.

Non-Violent Disasters and how They Effect Children