The East Coast of the United States is expecting to be hit on Monday with one of the largest storms ever to travel the entire coast. It has been labeled a hurricane amplified by a Nor’easter. This weather event has potential to bring gusting winds, heavy rain, and flooding that will cause costly potential damages. We anticipate that low-lying areas will be under water very soon. Shore areas are being evacuated and the public systems in the city of Philadelphia have been closed for Monday and Tuesday. How do we prepare children to handle such a storm?
Teach children to take storms seriously
It is important that we take this storm seriously because our children are watching.
Listen to the advice of those who are responsible for protecting our communities and use common sense and wisdom in preparing. Buy the right food, stock water and make sure necessities are available, such as flashlights, battery-powered radios and fully charged cell phones. Preparedness is critical due to the potential for power outtages, flooding and handling the unexpected.
Your children are learning by watching how you handle the situation
In the flurry of activity and media hype around the storm, it is easy for caregivers to forget that their children are watching to see how they are reacting and handling this situation.
It is always interesting to hear what children are thinking about during such an event. They are exposed to television and media that can shape their thinking and agitate emotions. Some have seen movies that exaggerate natural disasters as cataclysmic. Children are also quite sensitive to the fears and emotions of their caregivers.
Talk with your children and help them feel safe
Children need to realize that they are safe with their caregivers. They should never be placed in harm’s way when there is another option. Children also should have a chance to ask questions and talk about these events. Dialogue will help them to be clear about what is truly happening. And include them, if possible, in helping to prepare for the event. Working as a team can provide relational significance as well as purpose.
Most importantly, caregivers need to offer children hope and optimism before and during the event. If children believe that their parents or caregivers are confident that they will be okay, children will typically focus on the task at hand. They may view the the event as a positive experience or adventure. Further, they realize that pulling together can truly help overcome a crisis.
Please take every precaution. Be informed about how you will handle Hurricane Sandy. Be sure to affirm and assure your children so they feel safe. As difficult as this situation can be, it can also be a unique family experience that will continue to build their trust, confidence and self-esteem. It sends them the message that they can more readily safely entrust their lives to their caregivers. That is a powerful outcome that stays with them and influences how they will make their own decisions about safety and handling a crisis in the future.
Be careful and be safe.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network