Your kids have been through a lot. Let's make sure they get back to school on the right foot.

 

The past week has been overwhelming for Houstonians as we have endured the wrath of Hurricane Harvey.  The rest of America has watched as many have lost all of their possessions and had to evacuate to safety.  Those of us who have had power have been glued to televisions and the Internet, watching our city suffer unprecedented damage.

Other eyes were also been watching these events unfold - those of Houston’s children.

 Understandably, school districts are opening late but, in the meantime, how do we keep our little ones engaged and school ready? And, most importantly, how do we make sure that we’re giving our children the information they need to understand what’s going on while protecting their little hearts and minds?

The first thing that we encourage everyone to do is to be sure to take “time outs.”

Everyone who has ever flown on an airplane has heard that it is standard operating procedure for adults to put on their own oxygen masks before attending to those of their children.  Sophie McCollum, LCSW, a child and adolescent psychotherapist, indicates that this approach should likewise be taken into account in the aftermath of a tragedy such as a hurricane.

“Taking care of children starts with taking care of the caregivers,” McCollum notes.  “Children learn how to cope by watching those around them.”  

Caregivers are encouraged to open a dialogue with their children about what has been happening and how they are feeling about it.  “Often a simple conversation about their experience during the disaster may help clear up any misinformation they may have heard or dissolve some fears.”

McCollum points caregivers to introduce children to a healthy set of coping skills, which may include coloring, going for a walk, and listening to music.  

Take a time out from the rebuilding and restoring to read a book or draw pictures with your younger kiddos.  Take a time out from the uncertainty and stress to go over study schedules and test timelines with older students.

We have a long road ahead of us.  Remember that not only are our children watching, they are going through this with us.  

As we prepare for schools opening their doors for the delayed first day of school providing some sense of structure - to the extent that it is possible - can only stand to help.  Life will certainly not be “back to normal” any time soon for many families; all we can do is focus our attentions on the tasks at hand and move forward as best as we can and that includes getting our children as educationally ready as possible to step back into their classrooms.

While getting to your local library or neighborhood bookstore may not be an option right now, there are still many low and no cost ways to reorient your kiddo’s minds to all things “reading, writing, and arithmetic”.  Education World suggests reading aloud, making instrustruments from materials found around the house, or even building paper airplanes are great ways to get little minds engaged again.  For middle school children, visit a site like Fun Brain which is filled with online math and language games.  And for your high schoolers, consider having them take some virtual college campus tours or finally finish that summer reading list that they still haven’t gotten around to yet.

Lastly, we know how tough this has been on some of our most underserved communities so, if you or your family has a need for school supplies, remember that there are resources available.  Houston Independent School District is currently hosting a School Supply Drive and The United Way of Greater Houston also has school supplies available.

We are strong Houston but what’s happened to us over the last two weeks is overwhelming. It’s going to take relying on each other to get through this. It’s a great opportunity to teach our kids about the power of community. So, remember to take time out, reach out to those around you, and ask for what you need.


(Written with the support of Houston-based tutoring service, The Brain Domain)