SPRINGFIELD – Protecting your family is at the forefront of every parent’s mind when dealing with any disaster, including a flood. The emotional toll that a disaster brings can sometimes be even more devastating than the strains of damage to home, business or personal protect.
Children may experience distress when directly witnessing a disaster, coping with the loss of a family or friend, the on-going stress of temporary living conditions, or challenges to returning to pre-flood disaster life conditions. Here are some tips to help your children cope when floodwaters threaten your family.
Have a plan
Having a plan and communicating it with your children can help ease some of the anxiety kids may have about the abrupt changes in their routine during a disaster. Keep it simple and age appropriate for all of your children to understand. Including your child in the planning process will make them more comfortable with the plan itself.
Explain to your children:
- What each child is responsible for,
- What your expectations are of them,
- What you anticipate will take place during the disaster or evacuation,
- Explain what you will do to ensure they are safe during the disaster,
- Explain how you will communicate with each other during a disaster.
Remember, it is never too late to come up with a plan or change your plan based on your situation. Communicate these changes to your children to ease their concerns.
Children are greatly impacted by disasters. For babies, how you react will dictate their emotional response so try to remain calm. For toddlers and young children, soothe and reassure them often to make the abrupt change to your family’s routine more manageable for them to handle. Older children can still feel overwhelmed, so make sure you include them in your emergency action plan and communicate with them often. Most of all, remain calm. Children of all ages will sense how you feel and base their reactions off of your energy.
Acknowledge Their Fears
Anxiety runs high for everyone involved during a disaster. Be sure to talk to kids about how they are feeling about what is going on around them. Some children respond well to having a lot of information and others do not, so be mindful of the conversations you have with each child. Reassure them that their feelings are valid. Make sure you add personal touches – like hugs - while you reassure them. Remember to praise them often for responsible behavior. If you evacuate, or leave your home, be sure to bring comfort items such as blankets, stuffed animals, and pictures. These comfort bring some normalcy to your child’s life. Remember, positivity is key.
Monitor changes in behavior
Children will have a range of emotions throughout stressful situations. Make sure you pay attention to any changes in their physical and emotional behavior. Keep an eye out for changes in facial expressions, ticks, rapid or uncontrolled breathing. These changes may be involuntary, and are usually a sign that some additional help may be needed.
Keeping your kids involved in your family’s recovery plan can help them cope with life after a disaster. Talk about how you can work together to re-establish routines and spend more time together during bedtime. Utilize support networks such as family, friends and faith-based institutions. While the challenges may be great, your family can and will overcome the obstacles.
Emergency preparedness begins at home. Best practices goes beyond an emergency supply kit. Key tools include a family communication plan and a family evacuation plan. To learn more about building these plans for your family, visit www.ready.illinois.gov