A version of this post first appeared on Indian Moms Connect
It has been nearly a month after Harvey and I find it emotionally hard to relate with everything the city has seen and is still seeing. I don’t have the luxury of looking back and sorting my emotions and trauma because of my almost 8-year old. As you are probably aware, disasters and tragedies also trouble children.
Here are some lessons I learned during Harvey on facing natural disasters with a child.
Before the Disaster
Watch and Prepare
Harvey isn’t my first hurricane. I have been through devastating hurricanes in Houston previously but Harvey is my first one as a mother. Priorities shift when you are a parent. Watch the news. Hurricane season runs between June and November and I definitely keep my eyes on the weather forecast.
Have an ICE (in case of emergency) family plan. Discuss options on what would be good places to evacuate to if there is a need. Also, have a grab and go essentials box where you store important documents and valuables. Having a clear plan saves a lot of trouble when facing a disaster.
Involve Kids as Required
Depending on the age of your child, it might be good to talk to them about possible natural disasters ahead of time. There are great books and videos available. I had spoken to my daughter in late May about hurricanes and preparedness. I gave her facts and science and kept the information minimal.
When there is a warning, pay heed and stock up. Lines at my neighborhood grocery store were really long starting 3 days before the hurricane. Water, canned goods and bread were flying off the shelves. Pack your patience and get in line. It is better too be stocked than sorry.
Also pick up books, crafts, toys to occupy your child during the time you are forced to spend indoors.
During the Disaster
I made the mistake of having the TV on for hours during Harvey. Kuttyma got scared seeing the large scale destruction. While she did say, the boat ride looked cool, she had nightmares and needed more reassurance. In the day of information and in the face of disaster, as parents it is our responsibility to let kids be kids. I turned off the TV and refrained from sharing what I read online with the other adults when my daughter was around.
Lean on Science
We had numerous tornado warnings during Harvey. It meant that the whole family (including the evacuees) had to huddle down on a narrow corridor in front of the powder room for 30-40 minutes till the warning expired. It is scary for anyone. During such moments, I relied on science to save me. We learned what tornadoes are and what causes them. Keeping it simple and age appropriate takes the edge off things.
As we had the luxury of being safe and dry, I often indulged my daughter so that she forgets that she has to stay indoors. Videos, cartoons, board games and such.
Kids require constant reassurance during events like this. Extra cuddles, special privileges like sleeping with parents are good ways to reassure a scared child.
Show and Teach Gratitude and Empathy
Kids learn from parents. In the wake of disasters, children need to learn to be grateful and show empathy to the less fortunate. It begins at home. Lead by example. Talk about it and figure out ways to help the community. During Harvey, the Texas community rallied together and supported the city. Starting from rescue efforts to volunteering, the community is playing a very important role and talking and participating in some of these is a great way for children to learn.
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