Spring may be around the corner, but for residents from across the Jersey Shore reconstruction, building debris and construction crews remain daily reminders of Hurricane Sandy. Many families lost pets, personal property and irreplaceable heirlooms. People are still picking up the pieces as backordered building materials and insurance money are slow to arrive.
Houses on many neighborhood streets remain empty and dark, while thousands of families are still renting in unfamiliar towns and living under a whole new set of rules and routines. With the rush of life, work and rebuilding, we need to take a step back and evaluate the health of our youngest victims as they long for a sense of normalcy post-Sandy.
Children may find it hard to act normally. Boundaries set by parents in their former homes may be harder to follow because their daily routine has been abruptly disturbed. Many children may be living with grandparents who have become accustomed to a calmer lifestyle and may not have the patience to care for a toddler around the clock. Families may be sharing beds and smaller quarters, and some children may even be feeling more anxious.
Even children who were usually confident may feel anxious because they are deprived of familiar toys, bedding and clothing. They may also miss the structure of their family, including alone time with mom, dad and siblings. It will take time for children to cope and assimilate so continue to enforce boundaries as you did before the storm, but also be patient with them as they require extra TLC and understanding along the way.
These simple steps can help your children to recover:
1. First, you must take care of yourself and step back to look at the big picture. What is really important? What do I need to address and care for at this moment? If you are less stressed and anxious, your children will follow.
2. Try to normalize as much as possible. Attending school regularly and doing chores are musts. Structure must be maintained in the home, no matter where you are living.
3. Reconnect. Take a walk in the fresh air. Postpone errands and play with the kids. Enjoy dinner conversation with your spouse.
4. Give extra love and positive reinforcement when children do things well.
5. Try to keep children involved in all of the activities they were doing before the storm because the support system from sports and religious activities can help their spirit and self esteem. Take advantage of supervised available activities at your local arts center, dance studio, YMCA or Boys and Girls Club.
6. Volunteer as a family to help others affected by Sandy. This will teach them that even in your family's time of need, you can find the strength to help others. Compassion is key to building strong adults.
All in all, the past few months have brought out the best in us. Neighbors, strangers and family have been so generous with their time, money and support. It’s this sense of community that keeps us moving forward, children included.