Kids are curious, resilient, and often times much braver than we give them credit for, but they still look to parents for help and guidance when the world seems too big for them to handle. When that time arrives, instinct tells us to don our “Super Parent” cape for them to hide behind as we keep the tough stuff at bay.
But sometimes, it’s not enough simply stand between your child and danger – you need to prepare him for an emergency. And this is especially true for severe weather.
If You’re Not Ready, Your Child is Not Ready
No matter how cool you are under pressure, your kid has this super power that allows him to see right through you when you’re trying to hide inner turmoil (seriously, they can somehow smell your fear). Advanced planning and preparation on your part are key to helping him do the right things at just the right moment when the weather gets rough. Here are a few tips to help you get ready:
- Know what severe weather conditions you may face in your area and make separate plans for each situation.
- Inform yourself about the types of weather you may face, along with common meteorological terminology. The more you know, the less powerless you’ll feel.
- Plan ahead to protect important documents, data, family photos, and anything else you consider important. While none of these are as important as your personal safety, I guarantee that thoughts of protecting them will be on your mind when you should be focusing on other things. Consider buying a water/fire resistant safe or storing some items in a safer location (like your office building, if it’s a more secure facility).
- Make emergency plans and run drills with your family. Making sure everyone understands what to do will give you confidence during an emergency.
- Make any other preparations that will give you some ease if severe weather strikes. This includes having your “Go Bag” (one or more backpacks with daily essentials you can quickly take if evacuation is necessary), making sure your emergency preparedness kits are freshly stocked, and rotating your emergency medication supply – anything to help you remain calm and composed during an emergency.
Include Your Child in Preparations
Parents often forget that kids have little sense of control over their lives, especially at home. By allowing your child to have an active role in both planning and preparation, not only will he feel better prepared during a crisis situation, but he will also take ownership of his role and become an active participant, rather than a passive dependent.
- Consider his wants and needs. What you consider a want may very much be a strong need for him in a tough situation. Making sure that the pet goldfish is with you when you’re hunkering in a bathtub during a tornado may not seem feasible, but I recommend discussing the situation and what may or may not be OK in each scenario.
- When including your child in the conversation, make sure not to belittle his thoughts or requests. Even if something seems a little absurd, discuss his ideas in a respectful manner.
- Once a list has been generated for your emergency preparedness kit and go-bags, let your kid help fill them. This will again reinforce his place in emergency preparedness and will also give him first hand knowledge of what can be found in each.
- Use the emergency preparedness kits and go-bags as a tool to inspire calm and confidence in you and your child. This is a way for your family to stand up to the unknown, which is a powerful way of helping your kid cope when things get a little scary.
- Preparation isn’t limited to kits and plans. Practice your emergency drills periodically, and use the buddy system (especially for large families) even when you run drills.
Prepare Your Children to be Alone
It’s a scary thought for both parents and kids, but the reality is a scenario could arise that would cause your child to face extreme weather without your help. Take heed of the next few steps, even though, as parents, we don’t ever want to think about our children being by themselves in an emergency situation.
- Make several laminated copies of important medical information for each member of the family. This includes medications, medical conditions, insurance information, and a list of emergency contacts. Make sure your child knows where to find them, and ensure he knows to give this information to emergency responders.
- Teach your child how, why, and when to dial 911 as well as what to say to 911 operators. Yes, I am scared my son will make random 911 calls just to say hello, but It’s important your child knows what pertinent information to give emergency care providers. Some examples are:
- His name
- His address;
- His telephone number;
- Names and ages of family members present;
- How to describe the emergency;
- How to listen and respond to questions or instructions given; and
- A short description of what is wrong (kids tend to veer off course and time is critical in an emergency).
- Sometimes severe weather strikes when your kid is outside playing, away from adults, and unable to receive emergency weather alerts. Make sure your kid can act on his own. Since each area has its own advantages and challenges, the following are general suggestions to get you started on a plan:
- Show your kid where local emergency services can be found if he can’t call you.
- Teach him to seek shelter and/or help in nearby stores, government offices, or anywhere else that will give offer protection from dangerous conditions.
- Lastly, if none of the above are available, you may want to establish an network of local parents or retired individuals that may be home during normal business hours when most folks are at work. This will ensure your child can seek shelter at a place you trust.
Make Sure Your Kids Understand Extreme Weather
My last point is a simple one: the more you know, the more secure you feel. Take the time to explain to your child what severe weather can be and what happens when it strikes, all while keeping the chat on a level that he can understand. The goal isn’t to tackle atmospheric physics or structural dynamics, but to deliver a basic understanding to your child so he can better cope with a situation.
Stay informed, and stay safe!