Helping Your Child Through Emergency Weather Situations
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Hurricane season officially started in the Atlantic region on June 1st and continues until November 30th. As we enter the heart of the storm season, hurricanes and tropical storms will likely begin to form at an increasing rate. When weather emergencies such as hurricanes arise, it is normal for our everyday lives to be disrupted and our stress levels to be increased. The same is true for children, who may become scared or uncomfortable when these emergency situations take place.
To help ease children’s uncertainties about a weather situation or disaster, it is important to have someone around to comfort them and provide reassurance. It is common for a child’s uncertainty and fear to be intensified when adults do not discuss the situation with their children. Provide children with an explanation of what is occurring as well as the proper precautions and preparations to take. It is also a good idea for parents to encourage kids to talk about their feelings and express their fears through such activities as playing, drawing, painting, and reading. This will help open the lines of communication and provide comfort for the child.
It may also be wise to keep a child’s favorite toy, blanket, teddy bear, etc. around so they will feel more at ease. It’s important to make them feel comfortable and keep things as normal as the situation allows. They may ask many questions about the situation, and it is always a good idea to be honest without scaring the child. Listen to what your child says and how your child says it. Is there fear, anxiety, or insecurity? Allowing children to voice their concerns and fears will help relieve stress, and allow the parent to get a better understanding of how a child is coping with the situation.
Children may also be afraid to be left alone or afraid to sleep alone. They may want to sleep with a parent or with a light on in their room. Some children may have nightmares and behave as they did when younger. Again, in these situations, the best course of action a parent can take is to continue to provide support and reassurance to the child.
Power outages can also be upsetting for kids. It is always a good idea to have a disaster kit that includes a flashlight with fresh batteries around in such emergencies. It’s also wise to keep some games or a deck of cards around in this situation, anything that does not require electricity and can be enjoyed by children and adults. One of the best ways to help young people through these situations is to keep their mind occupied on something else.
Remember that storms and disasters are going to occur, it’s just a matter of when and where, and how well we deal with them. The best thing you can do as a parent is make sure that you’re prepared for any situation. By providing comfort and support for your family, you can help insure everyone gets through disasters as safely as possible.
Bill Stone is 4-H Youth Development Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County