As a lifelong Floridian, I’ve been through my share of hurricanes. Two years ago, the eye of Hurricane Irma stormed across Central Florida just a mile or so from our house. At the time, my children were 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12. We prepared them as best we could in the days before Hurricane Irma hit. From that experience, and many more as a Floridian, I’ve gathered my 5 best tips on how to prepare kids for a hurricane.
1. Be calm.
Hurricanes are scary. They are even scarier for children. As with all things in life, children mimic the behavior that they see. When adults are freaking out, children tend to freak out even more. We are their rock, their safety net, and their comfort. Although we need to all be prepared, we also need to avoid the hysteria that can so commonly be associated with these storms. When you think about how to prepare kids for a hurricane, the most important thing is to stay as calm as possible in all of your words and actions.
While we need to talk about preparedness and safety, we can do it in a calm way. We also don’t need to talk about the coming hurricane every single minute of the day. Try to keep your children’s routine as normal as possible, for as long as possible. If the storm does hit, there will be days and days of clean up and recovery. Let them play and run and be carefree for as long as possible.
2. Avoid letting kids watch the news.
One of the best ways to prepare kids for a hurricane is to avoid letting them watch the news with you. In the 24 hours new cycle that we live in, the airtime needs filled with something. As adults, when we see hurricane coverage from another country like Puerto Rico, we understand that this is not in our backyard. But think about what it’s like for children to watch this news. When a child sees the storm raging in a Caribbean country, they may not understand that this is thousands of miles away. They might think this is right in their backyard. We need to think about how the television news is perceived by children.
Of course, as adults, we need to stay aware of the situation, and we may need to watch the news. But in the world of technology that we live in, we can watch the latest updates on our phones or computer. We can also go to another room and turn a tv on there instead of in the living room. This simple change can really decrease a lot of anxiety and worry for your children.
3. Answer their questions.
When Hurricane Irma was barreling down towards our house, activities were canceled, school was canceled, and friends were evacuating. It got to the point where we couldn’t avoid talking about the coming storm. During our morning circle time as a homeschooling family, I sat the kids down, and asked if they knew about the coming hurricane. Depending on their age, some had heard their friends talking about it and some had not. I explained what a hurricane was, what it meant for our family, and what might happen to our house. They had lots of questions! Some of the questions I answered from my five children were:
Will it flood?
Can our house break?
How long will the hurricane last?
Can we get hurt?
Will our house be filled with water?
What about our dog and cat?
Is it going to be scary?
I answered every question that they had as honestly as possible. It took a long time, but it was totally worth it. Since they have no other reliable source of information other than me, I realized that I am their Wikipedia. I am their news outlet. I am their weatherman. As the storm approached, and we worked hard to prepare our home and property, I continued to take time out of whatever I was doing to answer any question my children had. Answering questions and being available to talk is one of the kindest and most important ways to prepare kids for a hurricane.
4. Be prepared.
If you’ve lived in Florida long, you know the basics on how to be prepared for a hurricane. You need to have water, batteries, non-perishable food, flashlights, and more. But when you have children, you need to think beyond that list. What will comfort your children the most? An easy way to answer this for me is to imagine you are going camping. What would you want to bring to make sure your kids are comfortable? These are the things that you want to make sure to have ready when a hurricane is coming your way.
Does your child’s favorite stuffed animal use batteries? You better be sure to have those batteries stocked. Does your child need a certain music or light to go to sleep? Be sure to have that able to function without electricity. As a parent, we have an extra responsibly to make sure we prepare not only our home, but also for our children.
5. Let kids help with hurricane prep and cleanup.
One of the best ways to prepare kids for a hurricane is to let them feel useful. We all love to feel like we are needed, and children are no different. If you are cleaning up your yard before the storm hits, have them put their toys away. After the storm, if your yard is covered with debris, and after you know that it is safe outside, let little ones pick up sticks. Find age appropriate and safe ways for your children to help prepare for the hurricane, and then to help recover from the storm.
After Hurricane Irma, we could barely see our front yard! We spent days working outside as a family, with even the littlest ones picking up sticks and pushing kid-sized wheelbarrows. It was so much work, but it also made us stronger as a family. We were very blessed to not have any serious damage to our home or property. It was also a wonderful opportunity to come together as a neighborhood and as a community to help one another with their clean up. Although facing hurricanes as a Floridian is scary, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to serve and help others in both the hurricane prep and in the aftermath.
Those are my top 5 ways to prepare children for a hurricane, from a Mom who’s been there many times. But my ultimate tip didn’t make the official list. Hug your kiddos a little more tightly. Take this time to snuggle more, read another book, and play another game. Life is but a vapor, and there’s nothing like the force of a hurricane to remind you what’s really important in life. Stay safe my friends!