Hurricane Sandy’s Effects on Children: Lives Unhinged

It has been just two weeks since Hurricane Sandy devastated many areas of the East Coast, and some of its effects have only just begun.  The media has focused on the devastation of homes and property, and the victims whose lives have become unraveled as a result of this disaster. Many people are unable to live in their homes, and are staying with friends and family until they can get back on their feet so to speak. Many children have been separated from their parents and siblings, staying in different locations while their parents travel each day to clean up the remains of their homes. Children have been displaced into different schools, strange, new schools to them, because their school isn’t able to be utilized at this time. I think of those children, who until now, may not have realized that reality could be so cruel, so difficult, so challenging. Their parents may be trying to hold it together the best they can, but the children know when things aren’t right, they know when their mother or father is just pretending that things are okay.  Many children’s lives have become unhinged as a result of this disaster; they are in the midst of chaos and confusion.  They have lost their homes, their belongings, their clothing, their toys, their books, their video games, and are hoping that this is all just a bad dream. They, like their parents, wish they could just pinch themselves and wake up from the nightmare that they are experiencing. If you are a parent, family member, neighbor, teacher, friend, please be aware of the needs of children during a crisis.  Many of these children don’t have the stable environment and predictable schedule that they need and have been accustomed to. Some of them may not have even allowed the crisis to fully sink into their minds yet, while others may be experiencing the traumatic events over and over again in their minds.  We need to encourage these children and let them know that things won’t always be this way and that they will get better. We need to listen to them, and allow them to work through their feelings, and we need to be extra patient with them as they continue on their journey to return to a normal life.  We need to give them opportunities to ask questions and talk about what they are feeling, share memories, cry, etc. We can encourage them to be actively involved in doing something helpful; such as collecting donations or creating a memorial. Above all, we need to encourage these children that there is always hope, that things will and do get better. We need to let them know that in time, their lives won’t remain unhinged, that things will be back to normal once again. Below is a list of signs that a child (or adult) may need professional help, please be aware of these signs and pay attention to them if they persist over time, and if necessary, contact a mental health therapist or agency for help.

Signs That a Child or Adult May Require Professional Help

Physical Signs

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Significant loss of energy
  • Nausea
  • Stomach aches
  • Headaches

Behavioral Signs

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Inappropriate displays of power or bullying
  • Withdrawal or regression
  • Overachieving – “trying too hard”
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Self destructive behavior
  • Excessive daydreaming or fantasizing
  • Compulsive care-giving
  • Accident-prone behavior
  • Illegal activities such as stealing
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Inability to speak about deceased loved ones

Emotional Signs

  • Persistent anxiety
  • Hopes of reunion with the deceased
  • Desire to die
  • Clinging to others
  • Denial of grief
  • Strong resistance to forming new attachments
  • Expression of only negative or only positive views of the deceased


Hurricane Sandy's Effects on Children


Below is list of links that you can click on to see how you can help the victims of Hurricane Sandy


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