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As a parent we aim to keep life as simple as possible for our children. We want them to be KIDS. Not to deal with adult concerns, adult issues, adult responsibilities. Childhood is precious and we aim to protect our children as much as possible.
However there will be times in life where we can’t keep our children in a little bubble of safety and protection. We recently had some severe weather in our area (Hurricane Irma) and it required our children to have knowledge and the ability to prepare in the event that the storm got to a point where their safety could be in jeopardy. However, there is a delicate balancing act as a parent during times of crisis. We want our children prepared, but we also don’t need to cause them unnecessary anxiety.
Here are my tips for preparing children in a time of crisis:
Keep Your Cool
Yes, this is directed at the parents. Freaking out in times of crisis doesn’t help anyone. Not the situation, not your ability to cope, and surely not your children. When Irma came through we don’t even live near the ocean…yet people in our area were in full on panic mode. If you know you are a higher anxiety person and times of crisis cause you to panic, I’d recommend reading up on tips to help cope and work on it during times of non-crisis so the next time something does happen you can be better prepared. Find ways of coping that work for you and then be sure to do what you need to to take care of yourself first. When times of crisis come, put your own oxygen mask on first so that way you can better help put on your children’s. Once you are calm you are better able to help your child remain calm too!
Even as a non-high anxiety person, it’s easy to be fearful when the safety of your family is potentially at stake. It doesn’t help to be constantly “plugged in.” Get the info you need and then get off social media. Turn off the tv. Quit texting. When Irma came through my husband was SO great at this. He chose a couple trustworthy news outlets, he checked in with their reports periodically and then he’d shut it off. He wasn’t bombarded with overly exaggerated news reports, with the tons of pictures people were posting of their “storm prep,” with input from every friend and family member on how to best prepare. He got the news he needed in order to protect our family and then he didn’t let it consume him.
When it comes to kids, there is no need for them to be “plugged in” during times of crisis at all. With phones now, our kids don’t need to have the tv on showing the latest updates and causing them to be fearful. Leave the tv off, get the news you need from your phone where your kids aren’t exposed to it. Let your kids hear what they need to know from YOU, not from other sources.
Keep Adult Convos Private
Along with keeping the kids unplugged, they also don’t need to hear your adult conversations regarding the crisis situation. In times of worry it’s important to communicate clearly with your spouse and have a plan of action together. Go in a separate room to have this talk. Keep it quiet and calm and decide together how best to manage your family during the situation. Your kids don’t need to have an input on how the situation will be handled, nor do they need to be hearing your discussions over it or the sharing of information that may not benefit them!
Only Tell What Needs to be Known
When Irma came we let our kids know that a storm was coming and that it was going to be windy. We informed that that we’d probably lose power and explained what to do if that happened. They didn’t need to know how strong the winds might be. They didn’t need to know that we had a large tree close to our house that we were worried could fall. They didn’t need to know our concerns or every detail and update. We let them know what would directly affect them. Nothing more, nothing less. Keeping it calm and simple allowed them to remain calm. Calm kids are MUCH easier to handle during a time of crisis than children who are scared or nervous or crying or fearful.
Let Them Know What is Expected of Them
As I mentioned earlier, it’s a delicate balance in dealing with children during a crisis situation. You want to tell them enough information to take things seriously, but not too much info either where they will panic. When things are different than the norm then they do need to have an understanding of how their routine will be different and what they need to be expecting. We let our children know that when they went to bed that night IF the storm got worse or came earlier we would come to their room and move them. We told them the power may go out and that they wouldn’t need to be worrying if it did, their sound machines had backup batteries so they would keep working through the night and we’d come get them first thing in the morning. They knew things may be different and they understand what expectations we had of them during the storm. They understood it was a serious situation but not one they needed to worry about. Mommy and Daddy would handle everything and they just needed to be sure to listen to us and do what we say (of course obedience is something that has to be taught loooong before a crisis situation arises!).
Give Them Roles to Help
Allowing children to help in times of crisis can be very beneficial in their coping strategies. It allows them to feel responsibility and pride that they are helping their family. If it’s a storm have them help gather up flashlights around the house. Let them fill up jugs for water. And when the time of crisis passes? Also let them help in putting everything back to normal too! Helping each other is what family is all about and even toddlers can pitch in!
Explain the Importance of Remaining Calm
One of our children tends to be a more high anxiety type personality. I’m thankful for that because it’s taught ME a lot regarding the importance of remaining calm. When she panics? It makes it SO HARD to manage her along with everyone else plus dealing with the situation at hand.
It’s important to explain to our children WHY they need to be calm. Let them know they don’t need to worry because they can trust that Mommy and Daddy will take care of them. Show them their other siblings and tell them they can set a good example by being brave. Pray together and remind them that panicking is not showing God that we trust Him.
Make it Fun
Even in scary situations it’s possible to make it fun. I remember evacuating for a hurricane when I was a child and my mom made it into a super exciting adventure and my brother and I have great memories from that trip. When Irma came we had our kids all sleep in the same room to make it easier to access them if needed, but they just thought it was a super fun sleepover. We baked cookies and cupcakes to enjoy when the power was out. We played games together. We watched the storm together from our windows.
By remaining calm and being prepared we were able to relax as the storm passed through and just enjoy the quality time the power outage allowed our family to have!
How do you help your kids be prepared in times of crisis?