Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share the resources (PDF HERE) that I found concerning how to help children cope with natural disasters. I hope that the information will be useful as we interact with our families, friends, and neighbors that have been impacted with the flooding or any other disaster. Children are very resilient however it would seem that this event has left a lasting impression.

You know how I like to share life experiences and observations. My daughter’s neighbor found a water-soaked photograph of Laura (my daughter) and Lily (my 3 year old granddaughter), in the neighbor’s foyer and returned it to Laura. How it floated way over there is miraculous. Laura plans on taking that wrinkled, muddy photo and framing it with a photo taken of the house in the floodwater. Someday, long in the future, she plans on showing her girls those photos to show them how one can rise up through adversity and how one should always find gratitude in the lessons life teaches.

Meanwhile I have observed how unsettled the little girls are. Even though Laura and her husband have tried to shelter them from the harsh reality of the situation, and get back into the “normal” routine, the children know something is amiss. They have been in 6 different residences in the last 7 weeks. Finally, they have settled into a rental property that is right across the street from Lily’s preschool here in Friendswood. The company that Laura works for has been more than phenomenal and generous, however she has started back to work which means she is back to traveling a lot. Lily is crying for her mom, and Eden (the one year old) has quit saying any words except “Mama”. Laura and her husband do spend quality time with the girls but it never feels like enough.

I think about the neighbor’s story of the lasting effects of the flood caused by the 2001 Tropical Storm Allison. She related that her daughter was three years old at the time, and had to be evacuated in a small boat in torrential rain, in raging water, in the dark of night. Now, that child 16 years later is a young adult and still is afraid when it rains.

There must be so many children with that potential in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, etc. I know that adults are so stressed and busy dealing with the enormity of the physical work of demolition, the loss of possessions, the financial burden, the dealing with the insurance company, the mortgage company, the never ending protracted period of time it takes to get everything dry prior to reconstruction, the city permits and inspections, whether the house will qualify for the “buy out” and be bulldozed, then the physical illnesses that come along with the shear exhaustion and decreased immunity (stress)….the list goes on and on.

In the middle of this scenario are the children who certainly have had their lives impacted too. The children have had a loss of their home, their toys/possessions, their routine, some of their parent’s time, change of location and friends. I think about your friend Bobby and his 5 children (Watch video HERE). I cannot even begin to imagine what they are going through.

I was talking about this subject with my 85-year-old mother tonight and we had a mini-epiphany. The impact of a disaster can effect generations! When she was 5 years old (in the middle of the Great Economic Depression here in the US), her home caught on fire. Her mother was driving her sick brother to the doctor and my mom saw the smoke billowing in the distance while looking out the back seat of the car. When they returned home they found that their house had burned to the ground, and nothing was left but cinders. They lost everything and times were very hard. When I was a little girl, I remember her telling me that story. When I was growing up and we would leave our house, we would always check to make sure that everything was turned off, “so as not catch the house on fire”. To this day I check things before I leave the house, “so it doesn’t catch on fire”. Sounds a little obsessive but I can see how one’s experiences of a disaster can shape behaviors that can be passed on to future generations.

All this to say how grateful I am to you, Dr. Hansen, to have been taught strategies in life to be more observant, calm, and resourceful. I am learning so much due to the flood. Thank you for the information presented last night at the live event and thank you for the weekly videos. Your dedication and time are so greatly appreciated. 

– Anita Denson, Friendswood, TX (Hurricane Harvey survivor)

RESOURCE: How to Help Children Cope with Hurricane Harvey (PDF HERE)