Today we feature a guest post from Marcia Hall of Strong Roots Family Coaching, also a member of our NannyFusion collection of resources for our readers.
On September 11, 2011 I was caring for 3 boys when the disaster struck. Mom and Dad were stuck in Canada and I was their sole caregiver for several days. Dealing with my own emotions as well as theirs was a big responsibility and it was not easy. However, going through this experience taught me a few things about how to discuss tragedy with children and how to prepare them for disaster without terrifying them.
The recent tornados and floods in the country as well as across the globe present a great opportunity to talk to your children about being prepared for disasters in their own life. One big mistake you can make as a parent or caregiver is to hide the news from your children. Children have a strong ability to sense the emotions and moods of the people close to them. They also often overhear things we don’t know they do. Your children may know something is wrong, but will not have the whole story. Without an explanation of the story their imaginations will run.
The best thing you can do to help your children deal with their emotions after a tragedy is to use simple words to explain the events. “There was a really bad storm in Missouri called a tornado. Some people’s houses got knocked down. Some people even got hurt. But the doctors are working hard to make them all better. It can be scary to hear about other people that got hurt. We have storms here but have never had one as bad as that.”
Using these types of sentences explain enough to your children without giving the scary details that might have lasting effects. Don’t go into more detail than your children need to know but don’t avoid the conversation or try to distract them. Knowing your child’s age and level of understanding will help you find the right words.
Children tend to immediately relate everything they hear to how it will affect them. For this reason your children might be worried that a big storm will knock down their house. Try hard not to discredit this thought because the truth is they are right, disasters happen everywhere. Instead use this as an opportunity to work with your child and put together a plan for if the worst does happen. Doing this can really help them feel powerful and prepared. It also means that they are more likely to actually remember what the plan of action is and use it.
You can put together a plan for many events from tornados to fires and other disasters. With your child, draw and color a map of your house. Have your child find at least two “safe” ways to get out of the house from every room. Have your children help you pick a “home base” to meet as a family once out safely. While looking at the map, find the safe places in the house to go if there is a tornado and put together an emergency box for these situations with your children.
Don’t forget to utilize community “safety” events. Many police and fire stations offer fun days where your children can learn about what to do in emergency situations. The key is to go with them and discuss what they learned after they are back. Working with your children to prepare your family will give your children and added sense of control even in the unknown.
To read more on Disaster Prep and other posts we have featured this month please visit:
Are You Prepared For A Disaster Or Emergency?