National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Natural disasters are a traumatic experience for everyone, including children. They can cause intense fear, anxiety, and stress, and can leave a lasting impact on a child's mental health. In the aftermath of a disaster, children can experience a range of psychological reactions, such as anxiety, depression, anger, and behavioral problems. These reactions can interfere with a child's ability to cope with the traumatic experience and can affect their long-term mental health and development.

The psychological impact of natural disasters on children can be particularly severe because they may feel a sense of powerlessness and insecurity. Children are often dependent on their caregivers for protection and support, and when a disaster strikes, they may feel like their world has been turned upside down. They may also experience the loss of their home, school, friends, and other familiar surroundings, which can cause feelings of loss and grief. Additionally, children who have experienced a natural disaster may struggle with feelings of fear and anxiety long after the event, particularly if they have lost loved ones or have been separated from their families.

Education and raising awareness are ways to help reduce the lasting impacts of natural disasters on children’s mental health. Parents, teachers, and other caregivers can educate children about disaster preparedness, response, and recovery, as well as how to cope with the psychological effects of a disaster. This can help children feel more in control and more prepared for future events, which can reduce feelings of anxiety and fear.

Project Bear Hugs, a Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador, aims to help reduce the lasting effects of natural disasters on children by providing comfort and support in the aftermath of a disaster. Disaster relief kits, filled with comfort items, are designed to help provide children with a sense of security and comfort during a difficult time. These kits can include items such as stuffed animals, blankets, books, and games, which can help children to feel safe and secure.

In addition to providing physical comfort, Project Bear Hugs also focuses on promoting emotional well-being. Trained volunteers provide emotional support to children who have been affected by a disaster. Children are encouraged to express their feelings and to talk about their experiences, and Project Bear Hugs provides a safe and supportive environment for them to do so.

Project Bear Hugs partners with local organizations to provide disaster preparedness education to children and their families. This education can help to reduce feelings of fear and anxiety by empowering children with the knowledge and skills to prepare for and respond to future disasters. It is important to support children during this difficult time and to help them to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of a disaster.


(written by Hannah Hoobyar, Founder of Project Bear Hugs) 

Project Bear Hugs, started by Hannah in 2013, has helped bring comfort to children and families across the United States after they have suffered tragic loss from natural disasters. From collecting and delivering over 2800 stuffed animals directly to children affected by the tornadoes in Moore, OK in 2013 to delivering clothes and household items to families in smaller, often forgotten communities...Project Bear Hugs is committed to reducing the mental and physical impacts of natural disasters on our most vulnerable populations.

Since 2013 Project Bear Hugs has distributed much needed donations to survivors of disaster in California, Nevada, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Oregon and Kentucky. We work with local, grassroots organizations to ensure all donations go directly to those most in need. Operational costs are minimal, all team members are volunteers, and the number of families touched now numbers in the thousands. We are able to fulfill our mission through strategic partnerships with corporations such as Peterbilt and Idealease, generous donations from the community and valuable relationships with other organizations such as the Louisiana Cajun Navy.

Why we do what we do:

Her name was Lily. It was our last day in Norman, OK in 2013 before we headed back home. We had just emptied out our Peterbilt Truck which was full of donations. We were standing in the parking lot of the hotel we were staying at when we ran into this woman who had lost everything in the tornados. She explained to us her family's experience.

Her daughter, Lily, was about 5 years old, and she was in the school when the EF5 tornado went through and destroyed her school, killed 8 schoolmates and one teachers. She was shaken to say the least. When we were there, it was about 5 weeks after it had happened. Her mom was telling us that Lily had not spoken a word, laughed, said "I love you" or anything since it had happened.

Lily was outside. I asked her if she would come with me, so I could give her a stuffed animal. We went, and she got to pick one out, which is the dragon in the picture. After a few minutes, she started to warm up. 10 minutes later she was laughing, running around, hugging on me, talking to her parents and was back to herself.