In the wake of the massive hurricane that affected most of the east coast of the United States, it got us thinking about how parents and caretakers can best prepare kids for natural disasters and states of emergency (and keep them occupied throughout the event).
Sesame Street put together an episode that explains what hurricanes are and how kids and their families can work together to prepare for them. It also talks about the importance of banding together as a neighborhood/community to help each other in times of need.
You can watch Sesame Street’s Hurricane episode here.
Big Bird also has some suggestions for post-hurricane activities here.
First and foremost, in any disaster, it is important to explain to your child what the event is and what they can except to feel, see and hear. Most children like to know how things “work” so they feel they have a sense of understanding and power over it. Explaining an earthquake’s causes while help them process what will happen and allow their knowledge to kick into gear during the actual event. Use your judgment over how detailed to get depending on their age and level of questions and engagement. Involve your children in your earthquake preparedness plan. Let them help prepare your emergency supply kits for the house, car, school, and office. Practice “drop, cover, and hold on.” It might also be helpful to spend a rainy afternoon simulating post-earthquake conditions by turning the power off and playing board games and doing activities and having a meal by flash/candlelight.
The United States Government has a website for kids to teach them emergency skills and response through a variety of games. Click here to explore their site for kids and being playing.
During the Event
It is most important that you remember to stay calm. Children can see and sense an adult’s feelings and stresses. Keep the safety and well being of your family first in your mind (this includes their mental well-being). Make sure everyone is in a safe and secure place. For longer events like a hurricane, make sure to have indoor activities planned that you can do both with and without power. You can find some ideas for indoor activities by clicking here.
It is important to remember that children will be under great stress. They might be scared and their routine will probably be disrupted for several days or even weeks. This is the time when it is essential for a child’s parent or caretaker to stay close (if possible) and give them extra attention and support. Talk about their feelings and yours as well (as appropriate). Include children in the recovery process in both your own home (replanting, repairing) and in your great community (volunteering to bring meals to the homebound or dropping supplies off at a local relief center).