Getting Children Involved in Emergency Preparedness
My 14-year-old son was reading his checklist for a hiking trip when he ran across some instructions for preventing tick bites. “That’ll be great for when we move,” I chirped up. Our family is about to move from Utah to Virginia, and I explained to him that Virginia has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the country. spread Lyme disease. My goal was to help him see that even in little ways he was prepared to move. He didn’t take it that way. “Why are we moving, again?” he grumbled. Involving Children in Emergency Preparedness I’ve realized that moving has a lot in common with a major earthquake. Both make your home hazardous to walk through. (I had no idea we’d accumulated SO MUCH JUNK till I started packing.)Both require you to leave your home and leave things behind. You might have to start fresh, away from relatives and friends, schools, and services. Just as you can prepare children for major life events like moving, you can prepare them to cope with natural and man-made disasters. Talk about what will happen and practice it. Involving Children in Emergency Preparedness We’ve hired a moving company to transport our things and plan to make the cross-country trip into a family vacation. We’ll camp out at least some nights. All summer, I’ve periodically set up the tents in our backyard and let the children sleep outside. The first night every child was back in the house by 2 a.m. I imagined what would have happened if my younger kids tried camping for the first time during the move. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking children around the area of your new home, if possible, in an article about preparing children for moving. “She will probably discover that the new city is really not that different from the one she is leaving,” the article said. The same principle applies in disaster preparedness. Practice for disasters. Have emergency food days when your family eats from your emergency kits, to help children become accustomed to it. The American Academy of Pediatrics article also recommends giving children choices in moving, like what their room will look like. Have children give input into what to put in emergency kits. Our emergency kit supply list called for packets of oatmeal. But my kids can’t stand oatmeal. So we took a vote and put in cold cereal instead. When you practice fire drills, have children figure out two ways to get out of every room and encourage them to make maps. Emphasize the positive and be calm yourself. My daughter informed me today that “everything about moving seems to be bad.” During our conversation she brought up that she would like to go swimming more. So we went online and found that our new town has an indoor swimming pool. So she left feeling a little better because she might be able to swim in the winter. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends emphasizing the positive aspects of moving, while acknowledging children’s concerns are valid. The same idea applies to emergency preparedness. “When you can manage your own feelings, you can make disasters less traumatic for your kids,” according to an article, “Helping Children Cope,” in In part to help keep costs down and in part to improve our disaster preparedness, I’m planning to use our family’s emergency kits as our primary source of food and shelter. (Not clothes, though. I don’t want to do laundry every day.) After we’ve moved, I’ll write about how this emergency preparedness experiment went. Melissa Rivera is a jack-of-all-trades who is master of none. She has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Disaster_Blog_Banner Involving Children
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