Irma gained strength to become a category 5 hurricane and changed course slightly to the south. The dangerous storm has crept closer to the possibility of impacting Florida. So, as residents monitor the weather and make plans for a number of prospective scenarios, now is the time to begin including the family into the preparations.
Children have different levels of understanding, but at nearly every age, it is possible to incorporate them into hurricane preparedness. Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, says that children “are the most vulnerable during emergencies,” and that parents should try to “minimize the emotional effect of such traumatizing events on children, and provide the support they need.”
Here are some tips for families preparing for a hurricane:
1. Prepare with kids in mind
Just how do you prepare your kids while planning a plethora of “what if’s”? One easy step is to include kid-friendly supplies into your emergency kits. Age appropriate books, puzzles, and games are a welcome sight to kids facing uncertainties. Slightly older kids would appreciate a portable DVD player, or tablet with a battery powerbank and pre-loaded games and movies. Teens could find comfort in having extra powerbanks too, for their smartphones and devices. Keep your technology charged prior to the storm. All ages should have a battery-powered radio.
2. Talk, but stay positive
Talk to your children about what is going on. Depending upon maturity level, discuss what a storm is and what sights and sounds are associated with them. Talk about how helpful your children are and how smart it is to prepare for rain and wind. Discuss your plans for staying in the house for a couple of days, or traveling to another area, depending upon the needs and requirements of your area.
3. Make preparation a game
Create a scavenger hunt to find the items needed to fill your kit. Don’t forget to ask your child what important things they’d like to have too. Make room for a special stuffed-animal, a soft blanket and maybe a few action figures. Hint: Flashlights are fascinating to kids; making shadow-puppets can pass time without power.
4. Limit media exposure
Save the Children recommends that parents limit t.v./internet viewing of hurricane coverage. Hurricane Harvey is fresh on the minds of Americans and wide coverage of the devastating aftermath is available on virtually every newscast. Save the Children warns that watching these stories can frighten young children and disturb teenagers.
5. Keep routines
Keep routines as consistent as possible. Your child will model much of their behavior after yours; so if you remain calm and orderly, your child will feel more confident and comfortable also.
After the storm, try to return to your usual daily activities as soon as you can. If you are displaced, ask about programs which help keep your kids in school and aid with transportation.
Remember that children are resilient. By considering the needs of your kids ahead of time and fostering a positive directive, your family can make it through these uncertain days – together!