Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Protect Your Child From West Nile and Hurricane Isaac

Last weekend I had a chance to sneak away for a couple hours and get myself a lovely, relaxing pedicure.   Next to me sat a mother and her two young girls, emerald green polish ready, reclining in their chairs, watching CNN on the tv.  While reclining in my massage chair and having my feet adequately rubbed and soaked, I heard one of the young girls, probably no older than twelve, exclaim, "Oh no, mother!  A hurricane is coming!"  Her voice contained so much panic, my ears naturally perked, as any child mental health care worker's would.  In that moment, I knew, the child's anxiety lie directly in the palm of her mother's hand.  As much as we may resent it, a parent's response to their child's anxiety can make all the difference in either squelching the fear or feeding it like kindling to a campfire.
So, what did mother do?  She exclaimed in an equally horrified voice, "Keep watching! Where is it!"  Now, I don't know the family's history, they could very well be survivors of Hurricane Katrina or another horrible natural disaster.  But, I sure wish that mother could have controlled her reaction just a bit for her daughter's sake.  Neither of them left the nail salon with the intended dull and quiet mind that comes from an awesome foot soak and rub.

With the news today filled with warnings of West Nile virus (we live in North Texas, where street and aerial spraying are a nightly occurrence) and Hurricane Isaac, many children are probably experiencing concerns and worries, that may be verbalized or acted out.  I have seen these types of worries spread through a child's tv and become a serious case of anxiety and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The good news is that parents can have a lot of impact on a child's level of anxiety related to current events.   If you suspect your child is starting to worry after watching the nightly news, here are a few Dr. Momsie tips to try:

  1. Turn off that devil machine, the tv!  Also, turn the station on the radio when news comes on. If you feel the need to stay up on current events, watch the news when the children are asleep.  I actually give this suggestion to anyone experiencing ANY type of anxiety. The nightly news is filled with reasons to worry, if you are prone to be anxious. So, avoid it for awhile and see how much the absence of "bad news" might impact your child's outlook on life.
  2. Educate your child on the topic s/he is worried about.  It is likely that your child has some very unrealistic and fanciful beliefs about the thing they fear, and some education can help calm those unrealistic ideas. Is your child worried about contracting West Nile?  Get on the internet and print up some facts to share about the actual chances of contracting or having serious effects from West Nile (FYI, the chances are slim, even now).   Let them know exactly how West Nile is spread and maybe even do a fun little study about the origins of the West Nile carrying mosquito population. When using information from the internet, though, be careful about your sources.  Use reputable sources and not message boards and commercial sites.  Avoid sharing more fear-inducing information, but focus on sharing factual information.
  3. Focus on prevention and safety.  Giving your child information about what you and other officials are doing to prevent harm and keep them safe can give a child a sense of control and security. If your child is worried about their home being destroyed by Hurricane Isaac, share with them the precautions you are taking to keep your house safe (boarding up windows, etc). Also, let them know that state and city officials will let them know if they need to leave their house, and share with them your family evacuation plan (so, yes, start formulating that plan if you haven't already).  Let them know that adults have this under control (even if they don't!). 
  4. Manage your own anxiety.  It may be darn scary to know that one in every ten misquitos carries West Nile.  You may really fear that Hurricane Isaac is headed straight to your doorstep.  Do whatever you know best to do to calm your own fears!  Get a pedicure, pray, and turn that tv off!  Children have an amazing way of picking up on adult anxiety. "If mommy doesn't feel safe, why shouldn't I?" they might think.  So, it's most important that you model a calmness and a "peace that passes understanding."  If all else fails, get yourself some Prozac.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phillipians 4:6-7).


  1. Another great blog. Thank you!

  2. hey girl. a great post one anxiety... i definitely am in agreement with staying away from things that cause it as a parent. for sure..aside from giving it to God, I know somethings I need to be informed of, but for most part I avoid news and media all together. i have a tendancy to freak out over dumb stuff... why should i? thanks for this... I am visiting from the GFC blog hop =) so nice to meet you!

  3. So scary! Keep safe:) Thanks for stopping by Curious Wisdom! Now following back!

  4. GREAT post Dr.! I am your newest follower over from the blog hop.

    Hope you have a great day.

    from www.mommyiscoocoo.com


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