As I uneasily trekked to seven different drug, convenience, variety department stores and grocery stores (one store I went to twice in one day because there was a rumor that a shipment was arriving) in a vain attempt to find bottled water for my kids in preparation for Hurricane Irma, I started feeling anxious. As I drove home my (hopefully temporary) substitute sport drinks, juice boxes and sodas, I kept worrying.
Will we be safe? Should we evacuate? What if we evacuate and the hurricane goes to where we evacuate? How am I going to pay for the preparation and evacuation costs? What will happen to my house if the hurricane hits our shores? What if my neighborhood is ground zero for this hurricane? I realized that my running around town was to prepare, but it was also an attempt to control an uncontrollable situation.
As I sorted through this litany of questions that I had some control in answering, I wondered how my kids who were in zero control of this stressful situation were feeling. Then I started to wonder, am I am adding to my children’s distress?
As every hurricane churns in the Western Caribbean my kids begin speculating how many days of school they will get to miss.
How do I make sure my kids take hurricanes seriously without giving them anxious nightmares?The curse/blessings of hurricanes is that we have many days to prepare, but we also have many days for children’s anxiousness to bubble as they hear the constant news about the possible effects of a gargantuan storm. Sometimes as children sense the adults around them with extra adrenaline and edginess, anxious youngster worst-case expectations can be fueled.
Kid’s extensive imaginations can be unbounded, especially after taking in coverage from other recent, harrowing hurricanes.
What can we do as caregivers to help them prepare now and for the aftermath? Here are some tips on what your family can do before and after the hurricane to keep everyone safe and sane.
Before the Hurricane:
1. First, stay calm. It’s a hard thing to do, when you are worried about your family’s life, home and precious belongings. However, try to be as calm as possible, your reaction to the situation can make things better or worse for young children.
2. Have a family meeting. You, as the caretaker, know the child’s personality and capabilities. You know best how to empower your child with age-suitable information. Discuss the situation and answer their questions in a straight-forward, but simple manner. If appropriate, you can discuss “what if’ scenarios in a matter of fact, non-alarming manner.
Create a sense of safety and security; communicate that you, as their protector, are going to be taking care of them, their home, and their pets.
3. Preparation helps with empowerment. As you have your family meeting, acquaint your child with the preparations and plans that have been made. Depending on their maturity level, lay out evacuation plans; communicate where you will evacuate. The more they feel like they have some sort of control of what they will do in the midst of a hurricane. The more prepared they will be to endure a hurricane.
4. Stay positive. It’s easy to find the negative in any situation. Help distract your kids by playing games. Spiritual reading or anything else that may help to keep them positive.
5. Get them involved.Youngsters can be put on charge patrol; they can make sure that all of the phones, iPads and other electronics are fully charged in the lead up to the storm making landfall. Kids can help evaluate plans and preparations to take care of pets. They can also be in charge of making sure that the “hurricane snacks” are divided up.
After the Hurricane:
We have learned from both the good and bad of our acquaintances in the aftermath of hurricanes. With some time, compassion, and preparation parents and kids can work together to be prepared, to help others in need, and maybe even build some family history stories that highlight the best of your family character during harsh emergency situations.
1. Be hopeful. While most people survive Hurricanes, some do not. This is a great time to express appreciation to your family that you all made it out safely. It will be an extremely stressful time for many. Try to find something to be grateful for. If your family can, help out your neighbors. Doing things for others, having hope and faith is a powerful remedy in stressful and horrific situations.
2. Stay away from water puddles. This looks very fun for kids and very tempting to splash in the water. Many dangers may be lurking, such as downed power lines, bacteria, sharp objects that may have fallen from someone’s home.
3. Water Safety. If your water is on, avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated. Use your current water storage as you await more information from your local resources.
4. Avoid Sightseeing. Please refrain from sight-seeing around your city to look at all the damage immediately after a hurricane. Keep your family safe and only venture out if you really need to.
5. Return home only when authorities identify that it is safe to return.This is for your families safety and the safety of those first responders as well.
Hurricanes can show your family’s resilience and ability to bounce back from opposition. A natural disaster, even if it is not life-changing, will be cauterized into a child’s memory. These events can show kids that they are capable enough to cope with tough life situations.
With preparation, good friends, and neighborly service kids can see that life events can be endured and even terrible circumstances can showcase the very best in people.
Written by Tammy Wilford, Mom and Tampa resident. Additional tips contribution by FamilyFriendlyTampaBay.com