The Storm Will Pass: How to Calm Your Children and Prepare for Natural Disasters
This summer, much of the country experienced natural disasters, from hurricanes to out of control wildfires. At other times of the year, some regions need to be prepared for earthquakes, tornadoes, and other events that are scary to children and families alike.
Experts from The Goddard School have some advice that can help you prepare your family for natural disasters. Lee Scott, Chair of The Goddard School Educational Advisory Board, shares this advice:
When you are preparing for a major storm or a natural disaster that could frighten your children, limit their exposure to the media. Talk with your children about what is about to happen. But only provide them with the information they need.
Explain the sequence of steps your family will take to prepare. Talk about what you will take with you, how long you might be gone, what the trip you are going to take will be like, and where you will go. Hearing about the plan will help your children feel safe.
Ask your children to help. For example, give each child a bag for packing things that they want to bring with them. Your children will feel more confident with the process and less afraid if they can participate in the preparation. Add an additional bag with things to keep them busy, such as games, puzzles, art materials, and plenty of batteries or extra chargers.
I find that storytelling and reading can help to explain difficult concepts, such as hurricanes and floods, to young children. Children can relate to the characters in the stories and find comfort in the narratives. I have three books I like to use:
Yesterday We Had a Hurricane by Deirdre McLaughlin Mercier
Sergio and the Hurricane by Alexandra Wallner
Wild Weather: Hurricanes! by Lorraine Jean Hopping and Jody Wheeler
With two major hurricanes this summer, it can be hard not to worry. Try to stay focused on what you need to do and not to panic or show too much worry. Check the weather reports as necessary, but don’t have the station playing in the background for the family to hear. Children will pick up on your anxiety and become more concerned. Most of all, find time to laugh with your family. When you are in the car, try singing with your children to relieve any anxiety. The storm will pass.
Families with children who are ill or have special needs may need to take additional steps to prepare. Dr. Jack Maypole, advisor to The Goddard School and Primary Care Pediatrician and Director of the Comprehensive Care Program and 4C at Boston Medical Center, shares his advice for families who have children with complex or chronic illness, including kids with asthma, diabetes, seizure disorders, or other conditions that require medications or ongoing treatments.
Above all, it is crucial that families prepare a medical go bag or kit that can be assembled once it is apparent a disaster might be looming. Key components of this package might include a medical summary of the child, a list of their medications, their allergies, and a brief mention of their most important conditions. A list of the child’s medical team with their contact information should be included as well. This can be written by a parent or pediatrician. Whenever possible, parents should include care plans with special instructions on how to treat their kids should need assistance at a time when medical care might be hard to obtain or while away from home.
In order to be prepared for a medical emergency, make sure your cell phone is charged, your gas tank is full, and that you have an understanding of the location of nearby medical facilities. This may be especially important if you are evacuating to an area with which you are not familiar. Parents should also have plans in place to transport medical equipment or medications as needed, including dry ice or ice packs for medications that need to be refrigerated.
Last but not least, make sure that if you anticipate medical visits, bring distractions. Books, toys, tablets, and other diversions may help fill the time in waiting rooms or in overwhelmed hospital systems. These will come in handy in riding out a natural disaster even in the best case scenario that you do not need to visit a doctor’s office or hospital.
With a little preparation, preparing for natural disasters can be less scary for children and parents. Take a deep breath.
Do you live in the path of any of the natural disasters that happened this summer? How did you prepare your children? Share in the comments.