In my home town, my family is usually fairly safe from natural disasters like Earthquakes, Tornadoes and Hurricanes, so I have had little reason to “train” my kiddos the strategies of preparing for such events. However, in the summer of 2011 we went through some pretty scary stuff from natural disasters to potential threats...and I had 2 young boys to get through it. During that time, I was amazed at the number of people I witnessed over a period of 48 hours acting as though Armageddon was approaching…and they were sucking their children into their fear induced panic with them!
Yes, I know we had just experienced a 5.8 Earthquake…and Yes, Hurricane Irene was knocking on our shores…but is panicking and scrambling and scaring the crap out of our kids really the best course of action? I, for one, was more inclined to take that opportunity to help teach my children to stay calm, think straight and PREPARE themselves rather than lose their heads and ultimately add to my stress.
I had the chance to chat with both my boys and 2 of my oldest son’s friends one morning before the storm hit, and I asked them what their feelings were about the situation. 3 of the kids said they were a little nervous and 1 child said she was really scared and worried. I asked “really worried” what was bothering her and she told me her parents had said that this was going to be the worst storm in HISTORY and the devastation was going to be catastrophic, people would be homeless and there would be no food or water...and on and on…SERIOUSLY?! I mean I understand wanting our kids to be aware of what’s going on, but instilling that kind of fear into a child is really, well, reckless.
Hearing their terrified friend talk about what was about to happen was beginning to upset the other kids, so we decided to stop talking about the “what ifs” and start working on the things we could do to be prepared. Here’s what a group of tweens and one “anti-survivor island” mom came up with:
1. Hearing about electrical outages makes kids think of one thing: THE DARK. So we gathered candles, lighters and flashlights in case the lights went out. We even got crafty and covered some plates with tin foil and filled them with tea lights. (that's as crafty as I get)
2. My little Alex is a very nervous kid and the one thing that calms him down is reading…so we charged the Kindle and had him pick out his favorite books and put them in his backpack (‘cuz we won’t be looking for ANYTHING in the dark, remember?)
3. Max apparently has a fear of starving to death if he doesn’t eat every 2 hours…so we pulled out all the “no-need-to-heat” foods, then we walked to the local store and got some simple prep foods, bottled water and of course all the fixins for s’mores!
4. Speaking of s’mores…the boys gathered a pile of kindling and firewood and put it in a plastic tub so worst case scenario, we still have dry wood for a campfire!
5. We put blankets, jammies and sleeping bags and some board games in the living room in case we need to have a PJ party.
6. We charged up the cell phones (the thought of not being able to text is worse than being without food apparently.) and even found a phone that does NOT use electric! It just plugs in to the phone jack on the wall! WHAT?
7. Finally, we all took a walk around the yard and put anything we wouldn’t want to blow away in doors or tied it down.
After we were done, we all took a deep breath and acknowledged that our preparation made us all feel a lot more secure and at ease.
It’s not the perfect plan, I know. Maybe we did too little, maybe we did too much, but at least we did something. We had no idea what that storm had in store for us, but my mom always told me that in any unknown, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
I like that strategy and I hope that is what I taught my kids…because when it comes down to teaching our children skills and strategies for life…”panic” just is not on my list.