Some truly sincere parents are so overly protective of their kids that they will do just about anything to maintain their children’s innocence for as long as possible. Unfortunately, this sometimes involves shielding children from things they should know and failing to realize that they are capable of handling more than they are given credit for.
In reality, many children — even young ones — understand what’s going on in the world around them and realize that not all news is good news. More than anything, they want to be kept honestly informed about family situations.
Even if our intentions are good, keeping children in the dark about emergency preparations may put them at risk if and when an emergency situation arises. On the other hand, making them feel like they are important members of the family when it comes to preparing for a disaster will go a long way toward their responding in the appropriate fashion once a crisis strikes.
What you say about preparing for a disaster and how you say it to a child will depend on the child’s age and maturity level, of course. But these basic steps will apply to children of almost all ages:
- Have children memorize basic information, including their names, their parents’ names, their addresses, their home phone numbers (if applicable) and the cellphone numbers of their family members.
- Teach children to use 911. Have them practice what they would say to a dispatcher under a variety of different circumstances. Make sure they understand to use 911 only in a real emergency, not when they can’t find the ketchup.
- Select two or three places where the family will meet if returning home during a crisis is impossible. Make sure that your kids know how to get to each of the locations and/or explain to a trusted neighbor or friend how to get there.
- Learn your child’s school and/or daycare center disaster-response policies. Because you may not be in a position to pick up your child, have a back-up plan in place for someone else to do so.
- Prepare a bug-out bag for each child, including items such as a family photo, toy, game, book or puzzle, plus nonperishable treats. Just knowing that you’ve thought about their needs ahead of time will help them better deal with an emergency.
- Keep in your own bug-out bag copies of important documents pertaining to each child, including their birth certificates. Also include recent photos of your child and various snacks he likes.
- Teach your children to stay away from downed power lines, utility poles and trees. They might not fully understand the terrible consequences of contact with these items.
- Teach your children basic responses: drop, cover and hold; stop, drop and roll; and the like. This is something you and they can have a lot of fun with while they learn something valuable.
Young children might not fully understand about the chaos that could ensue following a disaster, but they will be able to read your tone of voice and body language as you explain to them the importance of being prepared. Make sure you do it in a calm manner that will alleviate any fears those youngsters might have.