“The water went up to here!” shouted a group of third-grade students at Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Port Arthur, Texas as they pointed to their ankles, knees and waists.
These children were describing how high the water rose in their homes during Hurricane Harvey, and “scared” was a word they all used when describing their feelings.
Hurricane Harvey was one of the most destructive storms Texas has seen. Adults watched their homes flood up to four feet high depending on their location, and many people are still in the process of rebuilding.
This tragedy took a toll on many Texas residents, but what cannot be forgotten is that children experienced it too.
Susan Brenz, principal of Woodard Elementary School in Houston, said that the school had a psychologist come in to talk with teachers about how to approach talking with children after school started session and Harvey had left his mark.
“You have to use their words,” said Brenz.
Many children are still in shock. Brenz says that some children are noticeably more clingy, and others are scared of all weather situations now, no matter the severity. So, according to the psychologist who visited Woodard Elementary School, if a child says they are scared, the response should be, “You’re scared, tell me what that means,” rather than telling a child he/she looks frightened.
It’s important to let children express their feelings rather than adults putting feelings onto them.
Some of the children in Texas experienced things adults wouldn’t even be able to imagine.
Ruben Sampson, principal at Robert E. Lee Elementary, said that one 10-year-old student’s grandmother notified the school that her grandson might need a little extra time to adjust at the start of school.
During the hurricane, the child fell off of the roof of his house and into the rising flood water, traumatizing him.
Another young girl shared a story about how her mother was writing down emergency contact information on duct tape and taping it to her and her sister’s arms just in case they were to get separated.
And the stories go on and on.
One boy outside of Robert E. Lee Elementary said that he was afraid of the helicopters and the alligators during the storm.
Helicopters filled the skies during Harvey’s destruction on the lookout for families and people in need.
The alligators the little boy was referring to were all over Texas, seeking shelter on higher grounds as the water levels continued to rise.
And if the fear of the storm wasn’t enough, it’s possible that some children may not be able to have Christmas this year because of the damages from the storm that are still taking priority.
Some families lost absolutely everything during Harvey, and the main priority is rebuilding their homes. So, it’s possible that they don’t have extra money to buy Christmas gifts this year.
Some Texas schools have received help from other schools around the country to help make sure these families can have the things the storm has taken away from them.
Merton Intermediate School in Wisconsin teamed up with Woodard Elementary and sent the school t-shirts, Target gift cards and other relief supplies.
The gift cards the Houston school receives are handed out to families who reach out to the school or families in need whom the school is already aware of.
These gift cards are to help families supply meals to their children or possibly gifts for Christmas.
The principals at Woodard and Robert E. Lee Elementary remained positive through this experience and see a brighter future ahead.
“Ask me how I’m doing next year,” said Sampson.
These schools are still dealing with the effects of the storm. This is just the “second wave,” as Brenz said, and it can only get better from here.