Natural disasters affect the whole community, including those who only hear about them. It can be easy to forget that your kids might be picking up on some of the sadness and fear surrounding a local or even distant disaster such as a devastating tornado, wildfire, or hurricane.
Talking with your kids about natural disasters and the possible effects one may have on your family can help them remain calm and feel empowered in the event of such a disaster. It is important to give age-appropriate information that is practical and informative yet hopeful.
Reassure them of resources
Especially when talking with very young children, it can be helpful to remind them that when a natural disaster occurs, help is on the way. Emphasize the work that first responders do to keep them safe, as well as the steps you as a family are taking to stay prepared and stay safe.
For a small child, even a simple power outage can be scary, but how you handle it as a family can set a foundation of knowledge that will help drive out any panic or anxious feelings. Reassure them that crews are working hard at restoring the power and that you are there for them even in the dark. With older children, you can show them where emergency supplies are located, demonstrate how to use them if needed, and explain your family emergency plan.
Have a plan
Along those same lines, it is important that your family have a plan. In the event of a hurricane evacuation, where will you go? During a tornado warning, where is the best place in the home to hunker down? Be sure to clearly communicate the plan to older children and involve younger children in age-appropriate ways such as asking them what they would pack in their suitcase or which stuffed animal they would like to take into the storm shelter.
Limit media coverage
Whether the disaster is occurring locally or somewhere else in the world, it can be easy for kids to pick up overwhelming information from the news and other media. If you must follow along with important information, try to limit your child’s exposure to the news coverage and avoid graphic details and images.
Older children may have questions and want to know more about preparation or recovery efforts. Be sure to let your kids know that you are available to answer any questions and make the conversation about disasters an ongoing one. Help them identify and cope with their feelings, which may include fear, depression, or anxiety. Some of their fears may be based on invalid information, which you can then correct. If your child has been personally affected, it is important to be a listening ear to help them process their feelings about leaving behind friends, possessions, or other changes that may have occurred as a result of a natural disaster.
Assist with recovery efforts
After the storm has passed, it can be beneficial to involve your child in recovery efforts such as making cards for storm victims, taking blankets down to a local shelter, or making a monetary donation. Taking steps like these helps your kids connect with other families in the community. It also helps them to feel empowered and supported in the event that a disaster happens to them. Focusing on others helps to remove some of the fear and reframe your child’s experience into a positive one.
If you have any questions about how to best support your child through a difficult time in their life, give us a call today to set up a consultation with one of our board-certified pediatricians in Littleton.