Just as there’s no escaping the news coverage of Hurricane Florence this week, there’s no escaping a hurricane when it’s headed your way. Caring for children – including those with special needs -- during such an event can be doubly daunting.
Faring well in a hurricane is all about preparedness, and resources from FEMA to the American Red Cross bring us tips on preparing emergency kits for such weather. (If you’ve not yet secured your hurricane preparedness kit, it’s time to do so. Florida’s hurricane season continues through November 30, and September is a peak month for hurricane activity.)
For parents and caregivers of children with special needs, preparation takes on additional importance. Aside from physical preparations a family may need to undertake, the emotional and psychological trauma of uncertain and scary weather can be challenging for children.
To help keep youngsters calm during storms and severe weather – once they are safely evacuated and/or secure – experts offer several ideas for families:
1. Demonstrate and encourage calm behavior. Calm parents and caregivers help children remain calm, too. Limit news coverage to only the necessary messages and monitor the media entering the child’s world. Non-stop meteorologist commentary can overwhelm anyone.
2. Explore the science of weather. Hurricanes and severe weather are scientific marvels. If your child is curious about what’s happening outside, gear up with some educational resources to help explain and entertain. Curriculum examples multiple grade levels are available via the National Education Association.
3. Keep routine as much as possible. Maintaining as much consistency in schedule as possible can help a child feel secure. If your child finds comfort in routine, keep the elements you can, such as eating lunch at a certain time or playing a favorite game after dinner.
4. Be honest and confident. If your child asks questions about the storm, answer them honestly; it’s okay to be brief. Confidently explain the measures the family has taken to ensure you’re all safe and you’re well prepared. Encouraging children’s questions will help them express their fears.
5. Encouraging hugging. From snuggling a favorite stuffed animal to sitting on daddy’s lap, cuddling up can help quell anxiety.
6. Give the kids a job. Feeling helpful can bring purpose to uncomfortable situations. Let your kids be helpers if possible. Ask them to collect candles, check the flashlight batteries or pack some snacks.
Severe weather doesn’t have to be a severe bummer. Prepare your children and make the best of inevitable inconvenience by employing activities and mindsets that can bring the calm to any storm.
Sources: Omaha.com, huffingtonpost.com, americanredcross.org, fema.gov.