In the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, it will be normal for taiohi / young people to feel anxious and worried.
Here are some tips for mentors and whānau to support taiohi at this time:
Talk with your taiohi / young person about what has happened, and what is being done to help us all pull through, in a way they can understand. Be honest but make the information age-appropriate – don’t overdo it or it can lead to overwhelm.
Share the positive stories you hear of support and care being shown in the community.
Be prepared to answer questions – sometimes the same question over and over again. This is their way of making sense of the situation.
Talk about different feelings people, including you, may have after such an event. Acknowledge how they are feeling. Fear, sadness, guilt and anger are all common emotions felt after a natural disaster. Show empathy e.g., “I can see that you are feeling mad/sad, do you want to talk about it?”.
Use opportunities to teach how to manage emotions by stating how you are managing your own e.g. “I’m feeling a bit sad. Now that the sun has come out, let’s go for a walk to help me cheer up a bit.” Or “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, I might take 5 minutes quiet time.” Or “Whoa, I lost my temper there. Hey, there’s a lot going on, I’m pretty full up, so I’m really sorry about that, I needed to take a deep breath. Now, let’s try that again”.
Reassure your young person that they are safe and being taken care of.
Take care of yourself and keep calm to better help taiohi (*see below). Kids look to adults to know how safe to feel.
Allow children to keep as much of their daily routines as possible and spend time together as family and whānau and/or with a trusted adult mentor.
Organise for your child/children to spend time with their friends.
Remind your young person they have got the skills to get through hard things e.g., how they got through Covid or other hard things they have got through in the past.
Monitor exposure to media coverage, including television, radio, social media and newspapers.
Following a traumatic event like a natural disaster, it is normal for children, teenagers and adults to have strong feelings, reactions and changes in behaviour.
Just as it is ok for adults to not be ok, so it is for our young people. Using some of the tips above and making sure you take care of yourself (below) will help you navigate this period. If you need more help, reach out to someone. Some of the resources and support listed below may also help you.
How our taiohi feel and react can differ based on a number of factors:
The child’s age
Prior experience of trauma
Other stressors present in their lives (including pre-existing conditions, adversity or challenges they are facing)
The response’s and coping strategies displayed by those around them
Some things you might like to try together to be present in the moment:
Mindfulness – slow deep belly breathing, pay attention to the present moment – what can you see, hear, smell, feel, touch?
Listen and/or dance to music
Take a short walk and get some fresh air
Do an activity together quietly - colour in, read a book, do a puzzle
Practice gratitude – remember to think and talk about what you can be thankful for.
*Taking care of yourself
The most important thing you can do is take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. If you take care of yourself, you will be better able to support your taiohi. Get back to basics:
Remember to eat, include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
Get some regular exercise if you can
Try to limit alcohol and drink plenty of water
Get a minimum of 6-8 hours sleep a night
Talk to other adults about your feelings and what is going on
When times are tough, it's normal to feel a bit worried, frustrated or overwhelmed. As we recover, going back to basics and focusing on the things you CAN control, can really help.
Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing – connect with people, places that energise you
Seek help if you need it – if you are unable to sleep, are feeling an unmanageable heightened level of anxiety, or you are regularly feeling unable to contain your emotions
Practice relaxation techniques. Deep breathing is a great way to calm down in stressful situations. This involves breathing into the belly to a count of 4, holding your breath to a count of 4, and breathing out to a count of 6, holding your breath to a count of 4. The counts are a guideline, you may decide to adjust it to what works better for you. The key is to remember to breathe into your belly, and breathe out for longer than you breathe in. This is what sends a signal to your brain that you can calm down.
Sources/Other resources and support available
Trauma / natural disaster specific
The All Sorts website has more tips to help you and our youth cope after a natural disaster: https://allsorts.org.nz/tips-for-coping-after-a-natural-disaster
Article & podcast 'How to talk to children about Cyclone Gabrielle'
Kids Health provides some great resources and key points about coping with a natural disaster. Trauma - How To Talk To Your Kids About It | KidsHealth NZ
All right? - a health and wellbeing focused website focusing on normalising conversations around wellbeing and mental health. Has some great parenting guides for a range of parenting situations. https://www.allright.org.nz/tools/parenting-guides
Little Ninjas - behaviour support, parenting support, guidance for families. https://www.littleninjasltd.com/
Parent helpline - https://www.parenthelp.org.nz
Sparklers - some great resources and activities to do with your taiohi. https://sparklers.org.nz/parenting/
Counselling, taiohi/young people and whānau support:
Āwhina Whānau Services - Free confidential counselling for tamariki (children), rangatahi (adolescents), and whānau (families). Phone (06) 878 4827; 08001WHĀNAU (0800 194 2628) https://awhinawhanauservices.org/
Family Works - counselling, social services, parenting courses and children’s programmes. Phone (06) 876 2156 https://www.psec.org.nz/family-works-hawkes-bay/
Growing through Grief - support programmes for children, youth and adults who are experiencing change, loss and grief http://www.growingthroughgrief.org.nz/
Napier Family Centre - counselling and family services. Phone (06) 843 7280. https://www.napierfamilycentre.org.nz/our-services/
Roopu a Iwi Trust - free non-judgemental, confidential whānau support services
0800 2 ROOPU https://rait.co.nz/support-and-services.html
Skylight - a national support service for New Zealand children and young people who are experiencing change, loss and grief - whatever its cause. Skylight also supports those caring for these children and young people - their families, whānau, friends, professionals and community volunteers. Call free on 0800 299 100 or 64 4 939 6767. https://www.skylight.org.nz/about-skylight
Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga - a family focussed organisation working with whānau. Phone: 0800 TAIWHENUA, (06) 871 5350. https://ttoh.iwi.nz
Youthline is a "with youth, for youth" organisation that supports young people throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, aged 12-24. Free call 0800 376 633 | Free text 234 | https://www.youthline.co.nz/