by Katherine Darby, Infant/Toddler Specialist
We never stop worrying about our kids, and we work hard to keep them from harm. Severe weather and emergency drills are unexpected and unstoppable things that can all be very scary for young children. Children become afraid when things happen that are out of their control, when they don’t understand, and when something unexpected occurs. By preparing children for these events, we can help ease their fears.
Be careful that you are not fueling a child’s fears. If you panic, they will panic too. It is important for you to remain calm during unexpected situations, because your children will be looking to you for guidance. The best way to remain as calm as possible is to prepare and practice.
PRACTICE AND PREPARE
We do fire drills so we know where to go if there is a fire. We practice tornado drills so we know where to go to keep us safe. Have practice drills in case the power goes out. Where can your child find a flash light? This practice helps to prepare not just the children, but us adults as well. Having a plan, being informed, and knowing what to expect is extremely beneficial when seconds count.
Prepare children as to what they should expect using language they understand. Talk about what is happening and why it happens. This is a great way to help ease anxiety and fears about the unexpected because it is no longer a mysterious thing.
“The fire alarm will flash a very bright light and make a very loud noise; it might hurt your ears.”
“The alarm has to be loud so we know to leave the building to stay safe.”
“When we see the bright lightening, there may be a big BOOM from thunder.”
Doing research together is another way to help a young child to better understand what is happening and what to expect. Get books about thunder from the library, watch videos about storms on YouTube, watch rain showers from the window. Do make sure any materials you get are developmentally appropriate for your child.
Let your child know it is okay to be scared and that you are there to keep them safe. You may have a child who was never fearful of loud sounds and suddenly he is terrified at the first clap of thunder and flash of lightening. Be understanding of your children’s fears and take them seriously. It may seem silly or nothing to worry about to you, but, to the child, it is a real and scary thing. Ask a child what they need from you to help calm them.
Every child deals with unexpected events in their own way. It is important to know and respecting a child’s feelings while teaching them appropriate ways they can cope.