The disastrous effects of Hurricane Sandy remind us once again that whether the threat is a massive snowstorm or an oncoming hurricane, natural disaster preparedness is a reality families must deal with.
As adults, we take responsibility by updating and educating ourselves as much possible in order to prepare our families for whatever nature throws our way. But parents shoulder an even bigger responsibility, communicating with our kids in a way that helps manage their anxiety and fears, even when we are feeling anxious ourselves.
How do we talk to our kids about impending disasters and keep them feeling safe and secure? Try these tips:
Set a good example. Most kids take their cues from adults. Use a calm and rational manner to explain what’s happening, and discuss why it’s important to be prepared. Get ready to answer questions without going into unnecessary weather channel details about storm fronts and tidal patterns.
Keep it fun. Ask your kids the most important item they’d take with them in the event they have to leave home for a while, and talk about yours. Turn supply kit packing into a fun game or a scavenger hunt. FEMA even has interactive games and a coloring book about preparedness at http://www.ready.gov/kids.
Manage your media. Know the difference between being informed and becoming overwhelmed. The 24/7 news cycle and sensational images are way too much for smaller ears and minds to process. Keep children away from the television while still keeping yourself discreetly informed.
Be prepared. Have a disaster plan and discuss it with your kids. Knowing the possible eventualities before they occur will help them, and you, with the biggest fear: the unknown.
More resources to help you prepare for and talk to your kids about emergencies and natural disasters:
FEMA’s website includes online games and other helpful advice.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) web site provides guidance on how to communicate with children in the wake of a disaster.
American Psychological Association (APA) developed a set of tips to give parents tools to help them show their children and teens how to deal with emotional pain and sadness.
National Association of School Psychologists publications are designed to help parents and teachers talk to children about coping with natural disasters, terrorism, or other tragedies. Many of their materials are available in languages other than English.
Scholastic, Inc., the global children's publishing and media company, created "Helping Children Feel Secure During Uncertain Times" to assist parents as they help their children feel safe.