“Family Care Continues After Storm” by Karen Tan

This article ran in the August 29, 2018 edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Click here to view (subscription required)

By Karen Tan.

Our community’s collective response to the threat of Hurricane Lane demonstrated the positive power of organizations large and small, and family members of all ages, working together to support each other in times of crisis.

Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii’s print and broadcast news media for their many hours of updates and coverage in keeping our community informed; to Gov. David Ige and Mayors Kirk Caldwell, Harry Kim, Alan Arakawa and Bernard Carvalho for their actions to keep families safe on each island; and to emergency response preparedness and response from state and county departments as well as community organizations.

I join with Hawaii’s nonprofit community in also thanking the many staff members who, in the midst of making hurricane preparedness preparations for their own families, also worked extra hours to make sure that families in need, such as those in domestic violence shelters, were able to stay safe and secure during the hurricane period.

As we work to help those impacted by the effects of Hurricane Lane, and to prepare for future hurricane season activity, keeping a watchful eye on the physical and mental health of Hawaii’s families, especially our children, should remain a primary focus.

After the threat or impacts of a hurricane, most families will recover over time, particularly with the support of family, friends and a network of support such as community organizations and resources. Some families will be able to return to their normal routines rather quickly, while others will have to contend with repairing damage to their home and facing financial hardship.

Even families without property damage may have had to shelter in place for long, uncertain periods due to heavy rains and unsafe conditions. Children starting the school year may be apprehensive about the future. Signs of stress may include difficulty concentrating in school as well as changes in sleep, exercise and diet.

The National Traumatic Child Stress Network recommends tangible actions both before as well as after a potential natural disaster. These include adults modeling calm behavior for children, providing accurate information to their children about what happened during the storm as well as what changes the family is facing. Answer questions honestly but with the amount of detail appropriate to their developmental level.

Keep family routines as regular as possible and set limits on media and social media information about the hurricane.

Parents and caregivers, too, may benefit from finding opportunities to take a moment for themselves to reflect after the week’s activities leading up to Hurricane Lane, expressing their feelings, acknowledge that these events are scary situations and engage in positive ways to prepare for future potential watches and warnings.

Child & Family Service administers The Parent Line, a free statewide confidential phone line funded by the state Department of Health, to help parents learn ways to manage the strong emotions that come with traumatic events. The Parent Line is available toll free at 1-800-816-1222, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Our agency works daily with families whose lives are challenged through issues such as poverty, abuse and neglect. We are inspired constantly by the resilience of parents, children and kupuna in creating strong lives for themselves and for the next generation.

Hawaii’s collective family of individuals and organizations working together are our best hope for a strong future for our state.

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