When planning for emergencies, it’s extremely important to involve your children in the planning process and talk to them about emergency preparedness. Children can better cope with disasters if they know what to expect and feel like they can help protect themselves and their family. When children are allowed to be part of the process, you give them the ability to face the situation without fear, and you give your family better odds of surviving the crisis without harm. You also help them develop the skills they need to stay safe throughout their life.
What you teach them will depend on their age, and their ability to understand what’s going on. In general, they should be taught what to do, what to watch out for, where to meet, who to call, and how to communicate during a disaster.
Tell your kids the Truth.
The fact is, we live in a dangerous world where disasters happen, and evil really does exist. Hiding these facts from your children does nothing to prepare them for the real world that they live in, and the world that they will someday have to navigate by themselves as they grow up.
Teaching your children about preparedness, and the dangers that they are likely to face out in the real world is no different than when you taught them to stay away from the stove or taught them to look both ways before crossing the street. It’s all about preparing them for the real world and teaching them the skills they need to keep out of harm’s way.
- Don’t Scare; Teach. Use age appropriate lessons that prepare them for the dangers that are out there, without causing unnecessary stress. Kids have wild imaginations, so make sure you talk to them in a way that helps prepare them without allowing their imaginations to get the better of them.
- Tell them why you’re preparing. Explain to them why preparing is important, and why you as a family are taking certain precautions.
- Share your Plans. Your children need to know what your emergency plans are. It not only gives them a sense of power that will help set their mind at ease, but it lets them know what you expect of them during a disaster and how to react when something happens when they’re on their own.
Help them become Aware of their Surroundings.
One of the things that I continually stress to adults, that I’m instructing, is the importance of simply being aware of your surroundings. We live in a society filled with distractions; this is especially true for the younger generation who constantly seems to have their heads buried in some sort of electronic device.
- Point things out throughout the day that will get them thinking. It can be as simple as playing the alphabet game while driving or some variation of that game where the child has to find certain objects or colors while out on the road. The point of the game is to help them develop their situational awareness. Situational awareness is one of the most important skills you can develop and is the key to protecting yourself from all types of threats.
- When you see someone doing something dangerous, point it out. When you see someone doing something in an unsafe way, such as changing a tire on the side of the road without their hood up or their hazards on, point it out. Talk about what the person should be doing. These kinds of conversations will help them develop a safety mindset that will stay with them throughout their life.
- Point our exits, police officers, and other safety necessities. When you’re out and about, make sure to point out things like safety exits or police officers when you see them. Show them what they should be looking out for when things go bad when they’re lost, or when someone is attempting to harm them.
Conduct monthly safety drills.
Children learn best when they’re physically able to practice what they’re taught. One of the best things you can do for your child is to periodically practice the skills and plans that you’ve been sharing with them.
- Monthly Safety Drills. Every month or so, go through the exact procedures that you have in place to deal with certain disasters. Thing like fire drills, earthquake drills, or drills that plan for the most likely disasters in your area are all things you should be doing. It’s great to share your plans; it’s better to practice them.
- Give them a Pop Quiz. Don’t go overboard, but occasionally spring a question on them about how they would react during a certain situation. For instance, when you’re at the store ask them, “what would you do if the fire alarm started going off right now?”
- Throw them a curve ball. When conducting your emergency drills, make sure to switch things up everyone in a while. For instance, if you’re in the middle of a fire drill and everyone is heading towards the primary exit, block the exit; ask them, “now what do you do.” Disasters are very fluid, chaotic events that rarely go as planned; your drills should take that chaos into account.
Give them the skills they need to cope with a Disaster.
Disasters can be particularly hard for children and teenagers, especially for those who are unfamiliar with disasters or haven’t been given the skills they need to cope with a crisis. That’s why it’s so important to involve your children in the planning process and talk to them about what they need to do during a disaster or crisis. Talking to them now, and involving them in the preparedness process, can help make disasters less traumatic.
- Answer their Questions. Make sure you always ask them what’s on their mind, what they think about your emergency plans, and what they think about certain situations. Remember, kids often let their imaginations run wild so make sure you’re letting them ask questions, and make sure you’re clarifying anything they don’t understand.
- Give them their own bugout bag: During times of crisis, it’s extremely important for your kids to feel as safe and secure as possible. Having their own age-appropriate emergency bag, filled with familiar items and comfort foods, can be a real lifesaver during an emergency.
- Involve them as much as possible, and make everything a learning experience. Even if it’s something as simple as skinning a knee while at the playground, involve your child in the cleanup process. Show them how to clean the wound (in this case a skinned knee that probably doesn’t need much treatment), explain to them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and make them do as much of the treatment as possible (cleaning the scrape, applying ointment, and putting on their own Band-Aid). Little things like this help them develop a sense of confidence, self-reliance, and the ability to deal with stress and fear in a positive way.