Hurricane Florence Parent Tips

RRGSD School Psychologist, Lisa Frederes, MA prepared this today to help parents talk to their children about the Hurricane.  

It is natural for kids to be fearful of events such as hurricanes. Such events can be stressful and traumatic for adults as well. As parents, we also worry about protecting our kids and helping them get through natural disasters.  Here are some tips on how to prepare your children for natural disasters such as hurricanes.  

Respond to feelings:

If your child is afraid, validate their feelings letting them know it is okay to be scared. Provide reassurance that is honest and within your control. As you talk to them about their worries, share how your family is getting ready for the storm.

Have a plan:

Create an emergency plan in advance and discuss it as a family.  Make sure that you share with them the materials and supplies that you have and where they are located when needed.  Let them help you make a shopping list that includes some favorite snacks or have them turn on all of the flashlights to make sure they work. Review your evacuation zone, evacuation route and shelter locations. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead. When or if a disaster comes, hopefully you and your children can act more quickly, calmly, and efficiently. 

Too much information can be too much:

It's critical to stay on top of the latest news, so you're prepared for what might be headed your way.  Be sure that your children are hearing information from you instead of from the media. It is critical that you provide children with age appropriate information. For example, common questions your child may ask:

Q:What is a hurricane? 

A: A hurricane is a big rainstorm with thunder and heavy winds.

Q: What can happen during a hurricane?

A: We could have flooding, trees could fall down, and we might not have power for a little while.

Q: What do we do in a hurricane?

A: Follow our plan and do our best to be calm.

Q: Are you scared? 

A: We all feel scared, but we are doing everything we can to prepare. 

Make it as fun as you can:

Sometimes you can make the situation light and fun. If you're seeking shelter from a tornado at night, collect everyone for a family sleepover. During power outages, put on productions, enjoy board games and get creative with games and food recipes. Staying positive and modeling calm behavior are key components to supporting your children.  

Keep your kids close:

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) young children feel most insecure about being left alone and getting separated from their loved ones. As the natural disaster occurs and also afterwards, try to keep your children physically close to you. Hug them and verbally reassure them you're all together and safe.

After the disaster, try to resume your normal routine as much as possible. Continue normal bedtimes as you are able. As daycares and schools reopens, return to routines that are comforting to children, but be aware that children will likely be extra clingy and need extra care and reassurance.

Let them help:

Allow and encourage your children to participate in the physical recovery process in age-appropriate ways. Although seeing their own belongings destroyed can be heartbreaking for anyone, older children can feel closure and a sense of control if they're the ones throwing out their damaged possessions or at least contributing to the cleanup effort. Especially for kids and families who weren't affected by natural disasters, encourage your children to join the aid effort for other families. Showing compassion increases gratitude and awareness of the needs of others. 

Be patient

If children have been directly or indirectly affected by a natural disaster, they may regress to younger behavior such as bedwetting, separation anxiety, or thumb sucking. Sometimes when they lack the ability to verbally express their feelings, children can develop negative behaviors such as aggression, depression, and others. As you spend more time with your children, reassuring them that you are all together and safe and listening to their concerns and feelings, those behaviors should subside in the days, weeks, or months after the events.