Calm Kids During a Hurricane – Advice from Dr. G

Dr. G is back and she’s answering a question many parents in the area may be facing as we brace ourselves for Hurricane Sandy- how we can ease anxiety in our kids during emergencies.

 

My daughter is concerned as the weather gets worse that we’ll lose power (which is actually a common occurrence in our neighborhood, but nonetheless unsettling) and we’ll be “in the dark” for an extended period of time. What are some ways we can comfort her/ease her worries, especially when she has a legitimate concern that will most likely come true? — Jessica, mom of a 4 year old

Jessica, your daughter is right! The dark is a kind of scary place to be, especially for a long time. Lucky for her, she has awesome parents who can help her see that it can be a fun adventure, as well.

Try these steps to ease her concerns:

Validate her worry. Not to be all Dr. Phil, but the first thing she needs to know is that you understand she’s scared. Reflect back to her the words she is using, “It sounds like you are worried about being in the dark.”

Express a few of your own feelings, starting with one that is close to hers, and then moving to positive emotions. “I am nervous about the power going out but also happy that we’re prepared and excited to sit in the candlelight with you and Daddy playing games and reading stories.”

Make a list! Take some paper and write down with her all the things you CAN do during a power outage. Throw in some new activities you think she’d like as well as a few old favorites.

  • Will you take turns cranking a person-powered radio and then have a little dance party?
  • Can you color cards to send to grandparents when you can take a walk to mail them?
  • Will you invite your neighbors to a small picnic lunch?

If she’s still worried? List each of her concerns. Write down a few ideas by each of what she (or you all) can do if that happens.

Just to be clear, I do know that most kids this age can’t read. Just having the list, and hearing you read it to her when she needs it, will help.

It is important to talk to kids about possible emergencies, even young children. This helps them in several ways when scary things do happen. Kids can trust that you knew about this and are prepared to keep them safe. Children get a chance to figure out and express their feelings. They know some of what to expect, and get practice preparing themselves.

Preparing for emergencies teaches resilience! So keep talking to her, Jessica, and understand that this is a really great learning experience.

Doctor G (Deborah Gilboa, MD) is a board certified Family Physician and mother of four. She is the founder of AskDoctorG.com, a resource for parents and educators to raise kids who are respectful, responsible and resilient! Doctor G gives seminars all over the country and around the world, empowering parents with practical tools as they do the hard work of raising great kids. You can leave her questions on her site, or join the parenting conversation with her community on twitter or Facebook!

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