As frightening as a natural disaster like Hurricane Irma is for adults, it can be even scarier for our littlest family members. From the upsetting images they see on TV to the stress of preparations in their own home, it's important to remember that kids can be easily rattled by the fear and upheaval swirling around them.
Here are some steps you can take to keep your kids calm and clued into what's going on before, during and after a hurricane.
- Turn Off the TV. Traumatic images of flooding and destruction can have a deep, lasting impact on children. Limit screen time to reduce their exposure to these upsetting scenes.
- Be a Model of Calm. Kids are like sponges, absorbing feelings of panic and stress from the grown-ups around them. Just as parents are advised to put on their own oxygen masks first in an airplane emergency, adults should strive to be a model of calm and control around their kids in a natural disaster.
- Talk It Out. Simply answering your kid's questions and talking to them about their concerns and fears can help soothe their anxieties in stressful times. Don't wait for them to start the conversation. Take the time to sit them down and ask how they're feeling.
- Keep Kids Included. Let your children know what you're doing, and why, every step of the way. This will give them a better sense of understanding, cut down on confusion and help them feel included. You can even make it fun by turning it into a game or scavenger hunt, giving them small tasks to complete and special rewards along the way.
- Help Them Pack Favorite Items. Whether you'll be evacuating or hunkering down in a safe room inside your home, help your kids pick out a few of their favorite items to bring. Having comforting toys, blankets, books, games or art supplies can help keep kids stay positively focused and calm.
- Watch for Behavior Changes. Keep an eye out for signs of distress, such as disruptions in sleep or eating habits, nightmares and increased clinginess. If you do notice changes, talk to your kids and reassure them that you're doing everything you can to keep them safe and secure.