AMES, Iowa – It is natural for children to feel anxiety after a natural disaster or major storm event, like the mid-August derecho that cut through Iowa. One way to reassure children and to build their resilience is to read with them, said Constance Beecher, literacy specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
“Resilience or ‘inner strength’ is the ability to cope with the stressful situations that life throws at us,” Beecher said.
“By reading stories, parents can provide a safe routine to talk about the feelings that children are experiencing and discuss ways to feel better. Talking about how a character in a book feels and what they do to cope can be a bridge to help a child be able to identify their own feelings. Basically, stories can help children process their fears and feel safer,” Beecher said.
Beecher offered some examples of fiction books to share with children after the storm:
- Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes. This story addresses worrying and anxiety in a positive and child-friendly manner.
- Dinosaur Thunder, by Marion Dane Bauer. In this lighthearted story, a little boy’s family uses dinosaurs to explain away his fear of thunder.
- Stormy Night by Salina Yoon. During a stormy night, Bear comforts his toy bunny and his parents. As the storm goes on, they comfort him.
- David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety, by Anne Marie Guanci. This book is about a boy named David and how he learns to control the “worry beast.”
- A Terrible Thing Happened, by Margaret M. Holmes. In this book a little raccoon named Sherman experiences something stressful and learns to talk to adults to cope.
“It also can be helpful to children to understand what storms are. Reading some nonfiction books can be a good way to learn more,” Beecher added, and offered some examples.
- National Geographic Readers: Storms! by Miriam Busch Goin. This book explains what storms are, while acknowledging that they can be scary. (It is available in English and Spanish).
- Flash, Crash, Rumble and Roll, by Franklyn Mansfield Branley and True Kelley. Storms can be scary, but not if you know what causes them. This nonfiction book helps explain what causes storms.
- National Geographic Kids Readers: Weather, by Kristin Baird Rattini. This book has real photos to teach children about different kinds of weather. (It is available in English and Spanish.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has activity pages to help children cope with their feelings after a natural disaster. Older children can complete the pages independently and younger children can color the pages while an adult reads with them.
For more resources on how to help children cope with emergencies, see this guide from the CDC.
The Red Cross also has resources in English and Spanish on helping families plan for emergencies.
Photo credit: Angelov/stock.adobe.com