Tips for Recognizing
Stress in Students
College of Education
University of South Alabama
Children are particularly vulnerable to
uncertainty and destruction
Children with special needs are even more
Biochemistry of Trauma Event
Brain triggers fear
= Greater alertness or mental clarity
= Greater physical reaction/stamina
Typical Stress Reactions
Emotions Cognitions Physical Interpersonal
(feeling on- concentrate
Insomnia Social withdrawal
edge, irritable) Inability to Cardiovascular
make decisions Distrust
Difficulty with Blaming others
memory Reduced intimacy
Grief or problems
sadness Vulnerability to
Classroom Related Symptoms
Loss of short term memory
Loss of ability to concentrate
What To Do:
1. Create safe environment.
2. Be patient.
3. Be supportive
Stay calm Directly address the
hurricane and resulting
Learn about problems
may exhibit Establish a comfortable
Obtain referral Establish cooperative
sources groups for learning.
Give children an Children can develop
opportunity to social networks.
talk. Get family contact
Teach coping skills
Teach problem-solving skills
Focus on what they can do well. Recognize past
Answer their questions directly and in a positive
way. Assure them adults are helping.
Recognize severely traumatized children may not
be able to talk about it. They may be able to talk
about what people did to help. Months later, they
still may not be able to re-visit their feelings.
Parents and children may want to be together the
first few days.
Consider an activity they can do together.
Help parent trust that the children will be safe.
Provide a balance in classroom discussions
between talking about what happened to guiding
them to what is hopeful.
Consistent discipline with understanding
Take care of yourself.
Mourn your own losses.
Talk to others.
Eat nutritious food.
Recreation (helpful in relieving stress and also in
sense of belonging – particularly helpful for those
Arts and crafts (ex., beaded bracelets for each
Restore regular activities
Understanding of trauma symptoms.
To adapt classroom strategies so success is
created. They need time to meet and share ideas
Consider assigning buddies to displaced students
may help them adjust sooner.
To establish trust. Create wearable items that
represent the school, class, etc. that all can wear.
To encourage parents to limit television viewing.
Consider How the Trauma Impacts
Preschooler Initiative vs Guilt
Begins to initiate activities; develops conscience and sexual identity.
WHAT TO DO: Activities to encourage positive action
School-Age Child Industry vs Inferiority
Beginning development of self-worth by refining skills. WHAT TO DO:
Reminder of prior skills and encouragement of new development; provide
concrete activities – ways to help
Adolescent Identity vs Role Confusion
Integrates roles (child, sibling, student, athlete,
worker) into a self-image. WHAT TO DO: Talk about what people ARE
doing to help one another; how people are establishing new roles of
Intimacy vs Isolation
Learns to make a commitment to another as
spouse, parent or partner; WHAT TO DO: Discuss the importance of
connecting with others; how this is working as people reach out in
Small and school-age Older children:
children: Encourage them to talk to
Vulnerable to feeling you and share their
May regress to bed-wetting,
thumb sucking, throwing
tantrums, withdrawing Adolescents may try to
Six year old may not want to minimize their worries.
go to school
May relive the problem
through repetitive play.
What to do: Spend time with
them. Hug them.
Look for More Severe Reactions
Sadness that does not go away
Continuous aggressive or emotional
Preoccupation with the traumatic event
Any other signs of intense anxiety or
Symptoms Likely to Increase or
Change Over Time
Children returning to ruin will be newly
Long process of recovery can be
exhausting and cause fear, confusion and
Could last for 1- to 3 years with problems
varying according to circumstances
Rest; recreational activities
Talking about experiences (repetition,
however, may promote depression
Avoid withdrawal for an extended period of
American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress
“In the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina” by Lerner, Mark
American Counseling Association: Crisis Fact Sheets
American Psychiatric Association
“Coping with Storm Related Natural Disasters”
American Counseling Association
American Red Cross
Anger and Trauma
Crisis Management Institute (free download -handouts)
Department of Education
Department of Veterans Affairs
“Effects of Traumatic Stress in a Disaster Situation”
Department of Veterans Affairs
“Natural Disaster: Devastating Effects of Hurricane Katrina”
Educators for Social Responsibility (lesson plans)
FEMA for Kids (resources for parents and teachers)
National Association of School Psychologists (excellent site for
UCLA School Mental Health Project: “Responding to a Crisis”
(many links to resources)
University Counseling Services (students, staff, faculty)
460-7051 for an appointment
Helping: Contact Numbers
Bay Area Food Bank: 251-653-1617
Habitat for Humanity Hurricane Recovery
National Voluntary Organizations Active in
Points of Light: www.pointsoflight.org
Red Cross: 800-HELP-NOW or
Salvation Army: 800-SAL-ARMY or