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Keeping Children Calm During the Storm

Within the past few months, the U.S. has been battered by floods, storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes, wiping out hundreds of lives, homes, property, and just America’s general peace of mind. Children become as afraid and stressed as adults during these times. How do we talk to them about natural disasters and other situations they can’t control? The article below appeared in the Orlando Sentinel in 2009, but still has a few good tips on how to calm our children.

How to keep kids calm despite storms

May 31, 2009

Surviving nature’s fury can be stressful for adults and children alike.

But experts say good preparation can get families through it, starting well before a hurricane approaches. Keeping calm and busy is essential during a storm. And talking with kids afterward will help them cope with any fears or bad memories.

Families should put together a disaster kit ahead of a hurricane with flashlights, medical supplies, water and other items. Children can create their own activity survival kit with items they might need to stay busy or to make them feel safe.

Because a hurricane can knock out power for days, items should include some of the child’s favorite books and board games. Crafts are a good way to spend time, so include scissors, crayons, markers, and paper.

Children also should pack their favorite blankets, pillows or stuffed animals to give kids a sense of security.

The kits also should include pictures of the family and pets. They can be assembled in a backpack or duffel bag — preferably one that a child can carry.

Video games and other electronic toys may become useless without power. But some hand-held video games run on batteries, so keep a good supply available.

During preparations before a storm, you may ask children to help out so they can feel involved and in charge of sometimes scary situations. Have them put together snack bags for the family, check batteries in their games and other devices, occupy younger children, or some other duties.

Talk with children or provide them with age-appropriate books and reading materials to help them learn about hurricanes, satisfy their curiosity, or quell fears. Parents should be ready to talk with children about their concerns.

Try to keep children busy during the storm. Don’t watch too much television-news coverage of the storm damage.

If you have to evacuate, talk to children about keeping the family safe and how a home and other possessions can be replaced. Do not bring expensive video games or toys to a shelter — they can be lost or stolen.

After the hurricane passes, try to keep children from going outside until you know it is safe from downed power lines and storm debris that can injure them. After leaving a shelter, talk to young ones about how the home and neighborhood may be damaged to prepare them for the tremendous change.

Some say parents should try to restore normal family routines — meals, family, playtimes — as soon as possible to show the situation is under control. Watch for signs of stress with children such as nightmares and persistent fears of weather, loud noises, or being left alone.

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