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Archive for Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Parents try to help children cope after Greensburg tornado

June 26, 2007

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— Lisa and Rod Schmidt are trying to keep their son Jeffrey busy.

They have enrolled the 4-year-old in T-ball and karate programs, signed him up for a library card and are spending time at the park - all normal activities for a young child.

That normalcy is what the Schmidts are seeking for their son, whom Lisa Schmidt has heard telling people how the family's house and his toys and books were sucked up by the tornado that ripped through town six weeks ago, destroying most of Greensburg and killing 10 people. She also has heard her son crying.

He asks her to call the "fixer man" so they can go home.

Children his age who have survived a tornado want life to go back to the way it was before the storm, said Martha Barnard, Kansas University professor of behavioral pediatrics.

"They think it's a possibility that things can go back," she said. "Even adults can't fathom that it won't be back to some type of normalcy."

To help, adults should create routines with meals, bedtimes and discipline, Barnard said.

Mandy Sorg says she looks forward to the beginning of the school year when her 6-year-old son, Michael, will be back with friends, some of whom he hasn't seen since the May 4 tornado.

She has decided to have Michael repeat first grade, so he will have the same teacher he had last year.

She has watched her children go through good and bad days since the storm.

"They all seem like souls that don't have an anchor anyplace," Sorg said. "It's hard enough for adults to comprehend; I can't imagine what's in a child's mind."

Barnard, a child psychologist, said parents need to watch for abnormal behaviors, such as eating enormous amounts of food, temper tantrums, waking up at night and fear of future storms.

"You have to reassure them they're in a safe spot," Barnard said.

Both the Schmidt and Sorg families have pursued counseling for their children.

Sorg continues to have a positive attitude.

"When something like this happens, people do get better," she said.

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