Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Youth

Disaster Anniversaries

Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are days to celebrate annually with joy and happiness. If you are like me, I’m sure there are also dates that might bring feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness. For example, I’ll never forget where I was when September 11, 2001 happened. I’ll never forget days that various people in my life were impacted by serious illnesses or passed away. Many Nebraskans will never forget March 15, 2019 when the ‘bomb cyclone’ hit causing massive and historic flooding in the state. This date forever changed the lives of many and will take years for many to recover. As March 15, approaches, our Nebraska Extension team put out resources which I decided to share in my column this week.

gray scale photo of trees
Photo by Ian Turnell on

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has the following tips for how to cope with these trigger events.

  • Be aware that special days may be difficult. It’s common for some stress and other emotional reactions to happen around the anniversary of an event. Simply recognizing that your feelings are normal will help. Dealing with some of your losses and the new realities you’re facing after a disaster can be challenging. Try not to be too hard on yourself.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Show yourself the same kindness and patience you’d give to others during this time. Allow yourself to feel angry or sad and recognize that these emotions are natural.
  • Participate in activities that you enjoy. This may be different depending on the individual. Some people like to reflect in solitude while others may prefer spending time with family and friends for support. Some of these activities may include: singing, prayer, meditation, attending a spiritual service, going to the movies, or just getting together with loved ones to share a meal.
  • Talk about your losses if you need to. If you want to talk about your losses since the disaster, you can. If you want to talk about the future, you can do that, too. Be sure to share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. That can be a friend or family member or a health care professional.
  • Draw on your faith/spirituality. For many, faith and other spiritual beliefs are a source of strength and comfort every day, and most especially during difficult times. Reach out to your faith adviser, spiritual community, or anyone that you feel comfortable talking with about your beliefs to support and console you.
  • Accept kindness and help from others. Support from family and friends is essential to healing. It’s often difficult for people to accept help because they don’t want to be a burden to others, or don’t want to appear weak. Allow the people in your life to show their care and concern.
  • Help others. For some people, volunteering is a healthy way to heal and they get a great deal of satisfaction from helping others. Some activities can be as simple as donating food, clothing, and other items.

    beach depression sad tattoo
    Photo by Pixabay on

While it is hard to cope with these trigger dates, know that you are not alone and you are cared about, especially by Nebraska Extension. Nebraska Extension, along with numerous other partners has recently created the “Nebraska Needs You” campaign and is working to support others in times of difficulty. We have the Rural Family Stress & Wellness Team, that I am a part of which participates in activities supporting the wellness of rural Nebraska communities by working with community partners and the University of Nebraska. Resources can be found at

(Source: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)


Project Helps Young Flood Survivors Heal Through Reading

Since March 13, several communities in Nebraska have received historic rainfall along with damaging winds. Residents continue to work together as they recover from severe weather events. Flooding5.28.13.jpg

If you or someone you know was directly involved in this disaster, you probably have experienced a wide range of emotions. Like adults, young children may have difficulty expressing their feelings, which may lead to difficulties with coping and understanding their feelings. Young children may exhibit intense emotions and engage in challenging behaviors while others may have separation anxiety, bed-wetting or be very quiet.

In supporting young children with these different reactions and feelings, it is important for adults to remain calm and approach behaviors in a thoughtful way. Parents and childcare providers are in the best position to help young children cope. It is in our calm that children learn how to respond during difficult situations. A particularly engaging way to help young children understand their feelings and reactions is with storybook reading. Using children’s literature in an interactive way can help children heal by better understanding their experiences (Betzalel and Shechtman, 2010) and can improve their coping skills (Burns-Nader & Hernandez-Reif, 2016; Nicholson & Pearson, 2003; Pola & Nelson, 2014). Additionally, it provides the parent or caregiver with tools to increase their own understanding of how young children may experience traumatic events such as natural disasters.

books school stacked closed
Photo by Pixabay on

In response to the March 13 disasters, Nebraska Extension’s The Learning Child team created the Read for Resilience program. The team identified nine children’s books to support their coping and understanding feelings after experiencing a disaster, loss and/or grief. Then team members developed reading guides to accompany the books to provide parents and caregivers with age-appropriate probing questions to explore children’s thoughts and feelings. The guides also include suggested activities to further extend children’s ability to process their feelings and experiences.

Parents and caregivers of youth can receive up to five free books through this program (approximately a $100 value). To request a free book or to download a storybook guide, please visit, complete a short survey and select the book(s) which meets your child’s need. Holly Hatton-Bowers and Amy Napoli, assistant professors of child, youth and family studies and early childhood Extension specialists, are the lead organizers of this program. Team members include Lynn DeVries, Jaci Foged, Carrie Gottschalk, Lisa Poppe, Lee Sherry, Jackie Steffen, LaDonna Werth, Tasha Wulf, Karen Wedding and Kathleen Lodl.

One person who requested books wrote, “Thank you, thank you for your support for our children! We have a 6-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old daughter. We have noticed through conversation and drawing with our 6-year-old that she has been affected by the flooding. The books will assist us greatly in helping our daughters understand the impact the flood has had on our family and reassurance that they are safe. I still have a picture that our 6-year-old drew of a child surrounded by water and she told me that she prayed for ‘all the flooding’ in school that day.”

To ensure that this program continues, The Learning Child team is accepting monetary donations which can be given through the 4-H Foundation. These donations will be used to purchase books so parents and caregivers receive them at no charge.

“We’re hoping Read for Resilience will empower caregivers of young children to support them as they cope and understand their feelings around loss or grief,” Hatton-Bowers said. “This is another way that Nebraska Extension will be there to help families and communities for the long haul.”

Source: Reading For Resilience Program, Jaci Foged, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.