How you can help your children cope during hurricane event, pandemic

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Several studies show mental health challenges among children have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now, some mental health experts fear a potential natural disaster could heighten fear and anxiety for children dealing with both.

Dr. Jamie Freeny, a mental health expert at Mental Health America Greater Houston, said children who are nervous or anxious may express it in different ways, like clinging onto you or becoming easily agitated. Freeny says it's important for parents to pay attention to changes in their behavior.

To help children cope with any fears they may have, Freeny suggests parents limit their kids' exposure to news and alerts, practice breathing exercises and meditation, and talk about the hurricane and pandemic using child-friendly explanations.

"You can use child friendly statements such as 'a hurricane is a big storm that comes from the ocean. It can be loud. It may cause the lights to go out. It may rain a lot. It may be very windy,'" Freeny said. "Ask them if they have questions and continue to reassure them that you all will remain safe together. Engage them in preparedness. Ask them to help prepare a hurricane emergency kit. Ask them what we might need. Allow them to find flashlights and water bottles and snacks. And then be sure to continue to remind them and yourself that things will be OK, so it's important to take time to breathe, take time to relax so that you can think clearly in the moment and be there for your family and make sure that your family is as safe as possible."

For a list of resources to help you and your family cope during a natural disaster, visit the Mental Health America Greater Houston website.

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