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Can Hurricane Irma cause a Post-Hurricane Divorce?

Hurricane Irma caused significant physical damage and disruptions throughout the Caribbean and the state of Florida. The storm preparations caused many to feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and feeling on edge; however, the emotional impact post these types of natural disasters are often ignored. Additionally, significant emotional arousal throughout the preparations and post-hurricane disruptions, can increase conflict between family members and significant others. While many are attempting to get back into their routines, some are starting to question whether or not Hurricane Irma could have affected their marriage or other relationships. The stress associated with hurricane preparations could easily trigger tension between individuals, resulting in a strained relationship after the hurricane. Research even indicates that divorce rates have been noted to actually increase following significant natural disasters. The increased emotional arousal could cause some people to become explosive, controlling, and demanding, while others may completely shut-down and become more aloof. Many individuals might have seen a different and unfamiliar side to their partners, which could either be a positive or negative thing for the relationship. For example, a wife who witnessed her husband shut-down during this stressful event may now question his ability to protect and support their family during other difficult moments in the future. However, a husband who witnessed his wife take action and felt that he and his wife were able to handle the stressors associated with the hurricane as a team, may feel a closer connection to his wife and identify his marriage as being stronger.

“Am I going through a post-hurricane divorce?”

If you are experiencing increased conflict or disappointment in your relationship that may have either been triggered or exacerbated by the stress of Hurricane Irma, then it is important to become aware of factors that were already impacting the relationship. Acknowledging and recognizing that you and your significant other may handle stressful situations differently is crucial and finding ways to handle these situations in the future is necessary in order to have a positive and healthy relationship. By asking yourself, “are we able to work through these issues now and throughout our future together?” before considering a break-up or separation is important, as some research has shown that many couples tend to break-up shortly after natural disasters. Recovery from an event such as Hurricane Irma may be a long and difficult process that may require the help of a professional to assist in building effective coping skills. Please contact the Miami Psychology Group if you are interested in individual, couples, or family psychotherapy services. We serve Miami and Miami Beach areas.

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Preparing your Children for the Hurricane

Natural disasters, including hurricanes, could be very scary for children, as they may see frightening images on the news or overhear conversations that may increase their fears. It is common for many children to worry excessively as they see everyone around them preparing for the hurricane and discussing whether they have enough food, water, or gas in their cars. Children may describe this experience as, “scary,” as they worry about what may happen to their house or if they run out of food. There are many steps that parents may take in order to ease their children’s anxiety about the hurricane. These tips could help parents prepare their children for the hurricane as smoothly as possible.

Limit Media Exposure

May children become overly anxious when they see images of the possible effects of hurricanes. It is important to discuss ways to remain safe during the bad storm by staying indoors and away from windows. It may also be helpful to have your child help in the preparations by collecting objects in the yard that may cause some damage. Giving your child some responsibility during the preparations, will increase their sense of control over the situation and help them feel more confident.

Have Comforting Objects

Your child should have toys or objects that makes them feel safe, such as a teddy bear or a blanket they usually like to snuggle in. Additionally, having a sleepover in one room may help your child feel more secure especially if the hurricane hits during the night.

Control your Emotions

Children easily sense the emotions of adults around them; therefore, seeing their parents overly stressed or worried may likely increase their fears. Staying calm and discussing the importance of staying safe and proactively preparing for the storm will help your child feel more safe and secure. Involving your children in the preparation process will keep them distracted and busy. For example, you could have your children organize food or have them arrange games that the family could play together during the storm.  

Plan Activities during the Storm

Plan activities in advance for the family to engage in together. It is important to have non-electronic games on hand in case of any power outages. For example, playing board games will keep everyone entertained and will prevent boredom. Participating in activities together also gives your family a chance to spend some quality time together, simultaneously helping children feel more secure. Special plans, such as having a family sleepover in a protected room in the house, will create some excitement and help decrease fears.

Once the storm passes, it may be best to minimize your children’s exposure to the media (i.e., newspapers, internet articles, and the news) as well as pay attention to any behavioral or emotional changes in your children. Natural disasters can become traumatic experiences for many that may impact an individual’s functioning in various areas of their life. Contact the Miami Psychology Group if you are interested in meeting with one of our licensed psychologists.

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Beginning of The School Year

Parents throughout the county are starting to prepare for the first day of school, which is less than a week away for many! Most children have not followed a consistent routine since the last day of school back in June. Now that school is about to begin, it is likely that most children will complain about having to shut down their electronics and go to bed at a certain time. Others will refuse to wake up in the morning, causing parents to become frustrated and angry. Many parents are already visualizing the chaotic mornings in their homes, which will include tantrums, forgetfulness, and the feeling of constantly being rushed. As a result, many parents ask how they can prepare their children after a long summer and decrease the chaos associated with the beginning of the school year. The following are some recommendations that you and your family may find helpful to prepare for the beginning of the school year.

The key factor in preparing children is to implement the structure back in the home as soon as possible. Preparations for the first day of school, including buying school snacks, school supplies, and uniforms, should be done early as to avoid crowded stores and the possibility of not finding certain items. Additionally, starting a new school year could be anxiety provoking for most children due to new teachers, peers, classrooms, and sometimes even a new school. Adjustment difficulties at the beginning of the school year are important to address as they could lead to more significant problems during the school year, including acting out behaviors, school refusal, or poor academic performance. Scheduling a school visit before the first day of school could help decrease the anxiety related to starting at a new school as well as setting up a meeting with other students before the first day of school may be a helpful way for children to feel more comfortable about seeing their peers in school.

Setting expectations is also extremely important for children and they should be aware of what to expect. Expectations include tasks that each child may be responsible for, after-school schedules, and consequences that will be implemented if homework is not completed on time. One way parents can make expectations clear in the home is by setting up a visual schedule for each child and a chore chart for each child. Using visuals helps remind children of the tasks they are to complete and allows them to monitor their own progress. The use of rewards and praise for completing tasks will increase motivation and increase each child’s compliant behaviors in the home.

Lastly, if problems persist, it may be helpful to meet with a licensed psychologist who could assist you and your family implement structure in the home and help you begin the school year as smoothly as possible. Contact the Miami Psychology Group if you are interested in gaining more information regarding the services that are offered.

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