If you are a parent or grandparent you always worry about protecting children from harm during any life threatening emergencies. Now when I mention harm I am including psychological damage that can be caused by us creating an atmosphere of fear. We don’t want to stress our children out.
After giving this some thought and research I have came up with the following steps for protecting children
1 – Don’t scare them. Don’t start with camo face paint, smoke bombs and talk about killing people or violence.
2 – Make them feel safe. Here is the story of one young child who was raised in hurricane country and was faced with the threat of storms on several occasions. Her parents included her in the planning and preparation. She says “Rather than being afraid of an approaching storm, it became a learning experience. I got to learn about other places, how to read maps and understand weather terms. Plus, I knew that I would be safe. If a dangerous storm would hit my city, I knew my family would protect me.
We knew where the local shelters were located; my dad knew how to board up the windows of our home. My mom stocked enough food and medicine to hold us over for a week or two.
Another reason I wasn’t scared was because I knew my family would end up at a shelter with relatives — an unexpected family reunion! The adults provided enough activities to keep my cousins and me focused on each other and not on the dangers happening outside”.
Personally, I think that this is a big one, don’t let them feel any fear you may have.
3 – Teach them to be confident. Confidence is often the result of knowing what to do.
- Take them camping and teach them how to survive in the backcountry. This should be fun and yet serious.
- Teach them how to get out of the house in case of fire. Treat it like a fire drill at school.
- Make sure they know how to contact family or trusted friends in an emergency, if you are separated.
- Pick the same contact person for each family member to call or email. It might be easier to reach someone who’s out of town.
- Text, don’t talk, unless it’s an emergency. It will be easier to send a text, and you won’t tie up phone lines for emergency workers
- Keep your family’s contact information and meeting location in your backpack, wallet, or taped inside your school notebook.
- Preparing for emergencies shouldn’t fall on your shoulders alone. Young children and teens need to be part of the process — for their own safety and sense of empowerment.
- Don’t be reluctant to talk with your family about the possibility of a disaster. Thought and action before a disaster hits usually help family members react wisely. Use age appropriate books, news articles and other methods to introduce the topic and talk about how your family can be safer by knowing what to do.
- Involve your children in the development of your Family Emergency Plan and preps. Discuss and practice these plans as a family. Give children exact steps to follow. For older children, it may be appropriate to let them ask questions and make suggestions. Even young children can have a role in this process. Let them choose band-aids for a first aid kit, help select the family meeting place or choose pictures of family members to be labeled and put with your preps.
- Help young children practice dialing emergency numbers. Keep the phone off the hook or use a toy phone, take turns asking for help and use this as a chance to discuss when to call for help.
- Teach your children how to recognize danger signals. Make sure they know what smoke detectors and other alarms sound like, talk about keeping doors and windows closed to keep smoke or fumes out of a house as well as how to get out safely in the event of fire or other emergency.
- Help your children to memorize important family information. They should memorize their family name, phone number, and address. This includes knowing that “Mommy” and “Daddy” have first names too! Having pictures of all family members can be helpful for reuniting young children with their families as well as to combat homesickness. By labeling pictures with parent’s names, young children can more easily communicate to adults who they are looking for.
- Teach them about firearms and how to safely handle them when it is age appropriate.
- Again, when age appropriate, teach children about the dangers of going with strangers and how to protect themselves. Even 3 and 4 year old children can scream and kick to attract attention.
- Watch what you say around your children, don’t accidentally scare them.
- Consider enrolling them in a self defence class when they are old enough.
Protecting children is a big challenge and one we should take very seriously. Give this some thought and send in your suggestions to share with the rest of us.