Remember when you were in middle school and had to practice fire drills at school?
I personally loved going to school and finding out it was fire drill day because it meant we were getting out of class – and had more chances to play with our Tamagotchis or trade HitClips.
But then I became a mom.
When my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our first child, we decided to move to Moore to be closer to his family. What I didn’t think about then was the weather.
We welcomed our son in May 2014, almost exactly one year to the day after a tornado ripped through our new hometown. Not only was I heartbroken as we drove around seeing the destruction lingering mere blocks from our new home, but I was so, so scared.
We were about to bring a baby home to tornado alley in the middle of storm season.
That first month was a blur of becoming a mom, adjusting to a newborn, and constantly worrying about the weather, but it led us to a decision about how we were going to teach our children about emergencies. After a lot of research and practice, here’s what I’ve learned about teaching children to be prepared for emergency situations.
1. Children are incredibly tuned in to your emotions.
If you panic, your child will panic. The saying “lead by example” takes on a new meaning when you live in the part of the country we live in. If you are prepared, put together, and as calm as possible, your child will be, too.
2. Make a plan.
One of the first things we did when my oldest could talk was teach him keywords and actions to take in certain situations. Bad weather? Grab your lovey and do exactly as mom says, as quickly as you can. Smell smoke? Shut your bedroom door and stand at your safe spot. We practice three main situations in our house: fires, scary weather, and accidents involving mom/dad. Though we use as positive of language as possible, we’re honest enough to get the point across. Keep in mind that, though a child’s mind is incredible and can retain unbelievable amounts of information when it’s reinforced and repeated, making the plan easy to understand will help them remember when it really matters.
3. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Much like those school fire drills, practice is important. The more you practice, the more comfortable your child will be with the emergency routines. We not only act out situations and physically practice our emergency plans, but we also vocally walk through them as much as possible, just in case.
4. It’s OK to be scared.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t hold my breath when storm season rolls around each year. But, over the last five years, we’ve come to know and love our hometown, so we’ve stayed here. But, I still worry. And that’s OK! No matter how prepared you are, scary situations are just that – scary. The important thing to remember is that as long as you and your family are safe, that’s all that matters.
Though nothing takes the place of trained emergency professionals, it’s incredibly important to talk to your children and have a safety plan in place that everyone knows. What other tips do you have to teach your child about emergency situations?