It is difficult to watch scenes of destruction from the tornado in Oklahoma. Seeing the devastation of the buildings is one thing; seeing the kids reunited with their parents really takes it to a whole new level. One of my colleagues here at Alegent Creighton Health brought up how scary it must have been to hear the tornado sirens – and how both kids and adults will remember the images from this storm the next time the sirens sound here.
Aside from limiting exposure to news outlets and information about the storms, how do we help our kids deal with this? Kids are smart, and they may begin to worry something like that can happen in their town too. As adults, we need to know how to reassure our kids that we will do what we need to do in order keep them safe. It may also be helpful to ask your child what they think is necessary to stay safe.
Taking attention off of what our children are afraid of and helping them plan and implement a safety plan may be of real benefit. For example, younger children can be taught to go to the basement, or another safe location, during a tornado warning. Maybe they can each have a favorite stuffed animal or toy to hold on to. Mom and dad have bottled water, flashlights, cell phones and battery-operated radios available in the basement for just such an emergency. If you have older children, they can help comfort the younger ones.
According to ParentFurther.com, around ages 6-9, kids start paying attention to their world and their fears can be quite intense. The website offers this advice:
“As children learn more about the world, they begin to fear real things. Fire drills, storms, illness and other scary events might trigger intense reactions and emotions. Take their fears seriously and talk with them about the remoteness of dangers like fires and lightning, and about how taking precautions keeps us safe … Resist the urge to brush off concerns that seem minor to you. Instead, ask questions, listen attentively, reflect back what you hear your child saying and offer insights.”
As adults, we may not be able to answer every question or calm every fear. We know the world is uncertain. We can, however, offer reassurance by calmly listening, letting our kids know we understand what they are saying and respecting their feelings.
When the storm is over, your child may still need to talk about what they experienced. One of my colleagues, Mat Balcetis, MC, LIMHP, has co-authored a book called After the Storm: A Healing Book and Workbook for Children and Adults Whose Lives Have been Affected by Severe Weather. This book is available at no charge on our website.
Limiting exposure to TV and being available to talk, listen, and offer reassurance can really help our kids feel safer after severe weather erupts. Maybe some of you have other ideas on how to help our kids deal with severe weather. Please feel free to share your comments through this blog. Your comment may comfort and help someone else.