Only two states have had more federal disaster declarations than Oklahoma, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Robyn Haley

Robyn Haley, senior program manager, F&CS Early Childhood Program

Oklahoma’s total increased to 172 (the first recorded is in 1955) last week when President Barack Obama declared disaster areas due to flooding in Cleveland, Grady and Oklahoma counties. The May storms caused damaging floods and more than 60 tornadoes, killing 11, Oklahoma Mesonet reported this week.

Coping with such disasters is hard enough on families trying to piece their lives back together, but it can be especially hard on children. Robyn Haley, senior program manager with Family & Children’s Services Early Childhood Program, has tips for parents to lessen the impact a flooded, burned or otherwise damaged home might have on children.

Parents should try staying calm under pressure, limiting kids’ media exposure, keeping routines and remember their kids are listening to what they tell other adults.

“Sometimes we don’t always remember that little ears are listening and that we may be saying things to our loved ones that we shouldn’t in front of our children,” said Haley, who urged parents to be a role model during these situations.

Watching T.V. news can be important for staying informed, but Haley recommended parents limit how much children see. Watching traumatic situations traumatize children, she said.

That trauma could cause behavioral changes such as withdrawing from loved ones and their peers. Children could have more anger outbursts, greater energy during play and changes in grades at school.

If those issues persist for longer than six weeks, it might be time to look for additional support and call a professional, Haley said.

But nothing is more effective than a strong support system when a child’s home is destroyed.

Children are often mourning their lost relationships to the community or items missing, she said. Parents can help by keeping children in touch with the connections to friends and family.

“Keeping up with routines is essential. The relationship they formed in their neighborhood is important, so anything you can do, such as play dates with their friends, helps them adjust to a new environment.”

For more information on helping children cope with disaster, go to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network,

Go to if you or a loved one in the Tulsa area is struggling due to a natural disaster or similar trauma.

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About Family & Children’s Services
For 90 years, Family & Children’s Services has been the place to turn for help with problems that seem overwhelming and too difficult to handle alone. The agency restores children’s well-being, heals victims of abuse, strengthens individuals and families, and provides hope and recovery for adults suffering from mental illness and addictions. Today, its life-changing services help one in six Tulsans.

Family & Children’s Services is a partner agency of the Tulsa Area United Way. F&CS is also a member of the following national organizations: Mental Health Corporations of America and the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. F&CS is certified with distinction as a community mental health center by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. F&CS is also certified with distinction as a Community Mental Health Center by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Additionally, F&CS is certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services as an Outpatient Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program and certified with distinction as a Gambling Treatment Program.


Matt Elliott
Social and traditional media producer
Family & Children’s Services