How to Parent After a Crisis


We live in a part of New Jersey that was hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.  Our kids have seen friends and family lose their homes, live in temporary shelters and are now just starting to get their lives together.  How do we help them deal with the fears and worries they’ve expressed as they see some family and friends struggling to survive?


Disasters like Hurricane Sandy can provide a profound opportunity for parents to teach their kids how to deal with the inevitable disasters they will face in their own lives and model the difference faith can make in the midst of difficult times.

Here are several specific things you can do with your kids to help them not just cope, but to learn some invaluable life skills that will stand them in good stead for years to come.

First of all, be aware of your own fears and anxieties.  If they see you panic they are more likely to panic.  If they see you, in the midst of your concern, practice I Peter 5:7 and cast your cares on your Lord, they will be much more likely to do the same.

Assure them they are safe and they are loved.  Disasters create uncertainty and insecurity so repeated assurance from you will help them feel safe and secure.

Model responding instead of reacting.   Reacting is a fear-based process that creates panic, often results in poor decision making and tends to make things worse.  Responding is more of a faith-based process where you acknowledge the severity of the problems, you feel the loss, but choose to focus on what you can do rather than on what you can’t do.

Listen to their concerns and ask open questions about any fears and worriers they express.  Remember that an  introverted child may be less like to talk about what they are thinking and feeling so you may need to draw them out a bit more.

Be honest.  Let them know things will be difficult and their lives won’t be the same for a while.  Don’t give them false hope.  At the same time remind them of God’s promises.

Seek for opportunities to help others even in the midst of meeting your own needs.

Pray with them about their concerns, the concerns of your family and your community.

With God’s help you can maximize this unique opportunity to demonstrate the difference Christ and the faith community can make and help them not just survive but even grow in their faith as they navigate the emotional roller-coaster caused by this disaster.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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