Severe weather passing through NWA is stressful for anyone caught in its path—especially children. Most kids don’t understand the destructive nature of a tornado. They also don’t understand or appreciate the safety of being in a tornado shelter. To make taking shelter from a storm easier, you’ll want to take some steps to keep your kids happy and safe. We thought these few tips might help you do just that.
Prepare Early to Avoid Stress and Panic
One way of keeping your children calm in a storm is being prepared. By preparing early you’ll avoid the stress of running around to gather supplies when a storm is bearing down on you.
First, gather all of your storm supplies ahead of time. Preparing your storm shelter isn’t complicated, but it does take some time and effort. It’s important to remember the following items:
- extra water, food, and clothing
- weather radio to listen to weather updates
- first aid kit
- any other important items small enough to fit in a tight space
In addition to stocking your storm shelter properly, make sure you have a plan for how and when to go into your shelter. In general, it’s best to go into your shelter any time you hear the tornado sirens in your area, but some families may want to go into their shelter earlier. This is a good option if you have young children or pets that may take more time to get to safety.
Finally, it’s a good idea to let your children help you prepare your shelter. For example, you can let them pack their own storm shelter kit with toys and supplies. You can also let them help you put supplies in the shelter at the beginning of the season. Their participation will enable them to feel more in control and help them prepare mentally before a storm hits.
Help Children Understand Tornadoes and the Storm Shelter
Before going into your shelter, you can make it less stressful and scary by talking to your children about what will happen during the storm. This allows them to feel more in control.
Here are a few things you can talk to your kids about before a storm occurs:
- Explain what tornadoes are, how they form, and what causes them to happen.
- Tell them the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning, and also explain what the tornado sirens mean.
- Go into your shelter beforehand and explain how it works and why it’s safer to be inside. This will help make entering the shelter more familiar and less scary.
For older children, it helps to discuss your expectations during a storm watch or warning. For instance, you can help your teenagers by setting a plan for what to do when they are out of the house and when they are home by themselves.
It’s also important to stay calm during a storm. Even at a very young age, kids pick up on their parents’ emotional states quickly. It’s important that you don’t panic or show your stress to your kids even if you’re scared of the storm yourself.
A big part of this is simply using calm, reassuring tones with your children before and during a storm. It can be hard for kids to understand the gravity of a storm warning; however, you shouldn’t yell or snap at them for not taking it seriously. Instead, try to stay calm and be patient with your kids while focusing on keeping everyone safe. Be sure to help them into the storm shelter if you need to go in, and try to stay positive even if the storm heads your way.
Pack Things to Do in Your Storm Supplies
If you need to go into your storm shelter, it helps to have entertainment to make the experience better. Packing age-appropriate toys, games, or family activities can make the shelter more pleasant. It can also help keep your kids calm in the face of a frightening situation.
Good choices for supplies and games for a shelter are:
- hand-held video games like a Nintendo DS or Sony PS Vita
- mobile games or apps on a phone or tablet
- playing cards
- coloring books and crayons/markers
- comfort or security items such as a blanket or favorite stuffed animal
If you do choose to pack electronic games or toys, make sure you have extra batteries or a charger pack so that you don’t run out of power. Be sure to bring a light or lantern as well so that you can easily see what you’re doing.
Control Exposure to News and Media Before and After the Storm
Even if you do stay calm and prepare your children well, other influences can create stress. One of the most common sources of storm fear in children is the news. Even young children will pay attention to news stories. Constant reports of storm damage and destruction can create stress and fear in young minds. This, in turn, can make them more stressed later on if you need to go into your own shelter.
Try to minimize their exposure to images and stories that could be scary or confusing. If there is a major storm nearby, keep up with news coverage on your phone or computer or watch TV after your kids go to bed. When they’re awake, try to focus on positive images. It will help them adjust more quickly and allow them to deal with the event on their own terms.
Listen Carefully to Understand Your Children’s Feelings
Finally, it’s important to not only tell your children what to do and what to expect during a storm but also to take the time to listen to them. Try to understand their feelings and fears. This will make it easier for you to help your children get past their stress. Dealing with NWA’s severe weather isn’t easy for anyone, but talking through the situation with your kids will help them feel comfortable and secure in the storm shelter.
At BBB Storm Shelters, we know how important having a shelter is for your family. We also know how scary it can be to deal with big storms.
To learn more about handling the stress of tornado season or getting a quote for installing your own storm shelter, call us today at 479-271-0058.
You can also visit our Facebook page for more advice and tips for your storm shelter and for handling storm season.
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