Managing Family Life After Gustav

I am struck with the great irony of this post as I offer some positive guidance to families who, like my own, have been thrown off track by the wind and rain of Hurricane Gustav – most of whom don’t have electricity or internet access yet, and so cannot read this post today when they may need it most.  Well, for those of you who do find this post, and who really need some encouragement for your self and your family – know that you are in my prayers and hopes.  Following these links are some basic tips to help you and your family keep your sanity and remain as hopeful as possible during this extended time of uncertainty, recovery, and stifling muggy heat:

National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Hurricane Tools and Links

U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services: Hurricane Gustav

Managing Traumatic Stress: Tips for Recovering from Natural Disasters

Resilience: After a Hurricane

Managing Traumatic Stress: Dealing with Hurricanes from Afar

1. Get your rest.  I know it is hard to sleep in a house without electricity in this early September heat of South Louisiana.  But I urge you to make it a priority for your self and your children to get as much sleep as you can, so your body, mind, and family can function at its best.  As miserable as you may be feeling right now, it will only get worse if you sacrifice sleep night after night and become increasingly exhausted.

2. Stay active.  As with getting restful sleep, I know this oppressive heat and humidity can make it hard to find the motivation to get physically active.  However, I believe you will find it more than worth the effot during this season of hightened stress and challenge.  Physical exercise is a great way to keep your body and mind feeling healthier, keep your spirits up, and strengthen your immune system.  And these are all benefits we really need right now.

3. Maintain routines.  Sure, many of our routines have been obliterated by Gustav, but we need to fight to re-establish whatever positive routines we can for our families.  The structure and security of routines is so important for all of us to stay positive, especially for young children.  So sit down to eat family meals together, even if it is a weird hodge-podge of defrosted items from the freezer.  Play that board game or card game together by candlelight.  Keep that bedtime ritual of reading and praying together.  These family rituals remind us that we are still the same family and life goes on, even after our favorite old tree seemed to turn against us on Labor Day.

4. Start with a game plan.  Begin each day with a brief family conversation about your plans for the day.  Who is going on the gas run this morning?  Who is going for ice?  How long do you plan to work around the neighborhood?  How long do you plan to hang out and play at the church that has power and fun activities for the kids?  Who needs their cell phone charged?  etc.

5. Finish with highlights.  End each day with a family conversation where each individual is invited to share their best experience of the day or what they are most grateful for.  Our four year old has kept our spirits up by reminding us of how cool it was that the huge oak tree that broke apart and fell across our street contained a wild beehive and was full of honeycomb (which several of us enjoyed for breakfast Tuesday morning), not to mention how much fun he has been having with all the extra play time with old and new friends at the air conditioned church gym.

6. Help someone else.  Along with physical exercise, serving someone else in need has long been recognized as a powerful way to overcome stress, discouragement, and depression.  And let’s face it – there are a bazillion opportunites to serve folks in need during this time.  You don’t need to go on some international “mission trip,” or even across town.  Check around your own neighborhood.  I guarantee you there is someone who would be so grateful to you and your family for helping them clean up their yard, patch up their roof, clean out their house and refrigerator, help them get gasoline, ice, medicine, or other essentials, and the list is endless.  You may be amazed at the positive impact of serving others on your family, their family, your community, and our entire state.

7. Stay spiritually centered.  This is such an important time for families to practice your spiritual faith, which gives tremendous security and purpose to children and adults alike.  And staying connected with your faith community can bring so much joy, hope, opportunities to serve and be served, and continuity of life.  And folks, if you haven’t been to church in a long time, or maybe never, I guarantee there are churches all over that would be thrilled to welcome you and make room for you in their family right now.  So set the alarm on your cell phone or pda this Sunday morning, get our your Bible or other inspirational books, have those family devotionals, and keep praying every day.  If you aren’t sure what to pray, I’ll offer two model prayers that have been life anchors for millions:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever.  Amen.

And

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.  Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.  Trusting that He will make all things right if I will surrender to His will.  That I may be reasonaby happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.  Amen

With Hope for Your Family,

Roger 

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