Talking to kids about disaster preparedness is something that too many parents want to avoid. In part, they don’t want to upset their children or make them worry unnecessarily. But parents often don’t want to think about disasters at all.
Unfortunately, bad things happen whether we are prepared or not. By actively preparing for a natural disaster response, you’ll actually boost your family’s peace of mind. Not only that, but the skills you teach your kids today will help them be smart, strong survivors for the rest of their lives.
Keep a Positive Attitude
As you start talking about disaster prep, try to stay upbeat and positive. The last thing you want is to make children paranoid or fearful. Make sure to tailor the discussion based on the ages of the kids; if you have a family with both younger and older children, it makes sense to talk to them separately.
If you act scared, your kids will be scared too. But if you remain confident and excited about keeping your family safe, they’ll follow your lead. This is also an opportunity to sneak in a lesson about science and civics as you discuss how storms, fires, and other disasters behave.
Make a Plan
Do you know what to do if there’s a tornado in your neighborhood? Have you got enough water in your home to last your family at least a week? You’ll need to do your homework before you sit down with your kids to discuss disaster prep. However, make sure to listen to their suggestions and concerns as you talk over the plan with your children.
The most important component of the plan is establishing designated meeting places. If you get separated from your family during a natural disaster, you can’t rely on cell phones. Instead, you need a designated meeting spot–plus a backup in case you can’t access the primary location.
Give Everyone a Job
It might seem counterintuitive, but giving even very young children responsibilities during an emergency can help them stay calm and focused.
Little kids can pack a “go-bag” for themselves with snacks, toys, and activities. Their job will be to get the bag and rendezvous with the rest of the family. Of course, this only works if the bag is kept in the same place all the time and is easy to access. Giving kids a job can backfire if it’s too difficult to carry out. They’ll focus so much on trying to find the thing they’re supposed to carry that they may actually put themselves in danger.
A well-organized home with a clear disaster plan in place can stop that frustration before it becomes full-on panic.
Just like drills at school, you need to practice your disaster plans so that they are second nature. If you live in an area prone to tornados, your plan will look different compared to a family in danger of hurricanes or wildfires. You don’t need to practice for every possible disaster, just those that are most likely to impact your family.
Try to run a drill once a month, adapting your plan as you discover how to make it better and more efficient.
Keep Kids Involved
Disaster prep isn’t a one-time thing. You need to continually update your plan, check your supplies, and expand your knowledge. We don’t advocate for becoming a survivalist and living in the woods–although if that’s your thing, we won’t judge, either. However, everyone in your household should learn basic skills like first aid.
It’s also a good idea to get the whole family involved in learning together. Disaster prep isn’t a game–but that doesn’t mean it has to be scary, either.