We never know when an emergency situation or a natural disaster may take place. Preparing our children for these situations helps to reduce the panic.
A zombie apocalypse may not be in the future, but chances are your child may face a disaster or emergency at some point. I always assumed we would never face an emergency but felt that prepared we better than unprepared. My husband is a firefighter, and we have four kids. In November 2017, all of our preparations came to a head when we experienced a house fire.
I wish I could tell you that it wasn’t terrifying despite our preparations; it was scary for everyone. I was alone and left to get my kids out of the house. However, our multiple talks about fire safety proved to work, as my kids and animals escaped quickly from our home. In fact, my husband responded to our house fire call and put the fire out himself, a firefighter’s worse nightmare.
Teaching our kids to be ready for emergencies and disasters is even more important to use. Here are some of our tips!
1. Talk about Potential Disasters and Emergencies
First, you have to gauge your children and their maturity level. A 6-year-old can handle less than a 12-year-old. Now is the time to discuss, as you see fit, situations that they may encounter.
As winter approaches, you may want to talk to your kids about ice storms and blizzards. Tell them how it can cause people to be unable to leave their homes so you need to have food, water, and heat ready to stay safe.
It’s also a time to talk about house fires and create a strategy to get out of the house. You may feel your kids are old enough to understand that active shooter situations are part of our reality. What disasters and emergencies you want to focus on will vary, but it’s important to start those conversations. Be delicate, yet discuss why you want to prepare for them. Kids do well with motivations.
2. Let Your Kids Know They Are Safe
As you start discussing situations that may occur, always let your kids know that it’s your responsibility, as their parent, to keep them safe. You’ll always do everything you can to ensure they’re safe. Sometimes, things can get rough during emergency situations, but they need to know you’re doing your best. For little kids, it may be a good idea to create a mantra they can repeat when they are scared: “Mommy and Dad will keep me safe.”
3. Memorize Contact Information
Even little kids can memorize contact information! Work on this with your kids often. They need to know their names, your names, and where they live for rescue organizations, police officers, and firefighters. If you are separated for some reason, knowing this information makes a huge difference.
4. Talk about 911
Every child needs to know how to use 9-1-1 in an emergency. It should save their lives or yours. Teach your kids what 9-1-1 is and talk to them about how to understand when to call. Make sure they understand it’s for emergencies not for a game or play.
Then, talk about what type of information they need to give the dispatcher. Tell your kids this is why they need to memorize their contact information! Best of all, practice with them to make it all more familiar and less scary. Verywell Family offers some great tips for talking about 911 to your kids.
5. Run Through Scenarios Together
Kids need practice, so create scenarios to practice. You want scenarios such as:
- Mom fell down and is bleeding badly. What do they do?
- They think someone is inside the house that doesn’t live with them. Where do they go?
- The house is full of smoke. How do they get out?
- Someone falls off their bike. Should they call 911 or go find an adult?
Make sure you practice your fire escape plan or go over your SHTF or bug out plan if you have one. If necessary, write them out on posters in a place where your kids will see daily. Looking at something every day makes it easier to memorize.
Our frequent run throughs on how to escape a fire paid off! House fires are more common than people may realize. There are over 350,000 house fires each year.
6. Know the Three “Outs”
Teach your kids that dangers do happen in public areas, and knowing the three “outs” is important. Remember that you need to be age appropriate. Don’t make your 5-year-old afraid to go to the mall, but teach them what to do.
- Get Out – First, teach them in violent situations they need to get out – run away. They need to stay with mom or dad and run away, as fast as they can.
- Hide Out – Second, if getting out isn’t an option, it’s time to hide out. That doesn’t mean under a desk as the movies show you. Find a closet and barricade yourself inside of the closet. Proper hiding saves lives.
- Take Them Out – Last, make sure they know to do everything they can to defend themselves. Little kids may not need to go over this step just yet; gauge how your child will react. For older kids, it’s a good time to talk about self-defense!
7. Include Your Kids in Disaster Prepping
Don’t make your prepping a secret. If you’re working to store food for a potential blizzard this winter, have your kids help you rotate the food and go over the checklist. Ask your kids for suggestions to make the food supply better. Show them where you store the emergency items.
Doing so serves two purposes. It will help them know where to find everything during an emergency and seeing the items help them know that their parents are preparing for the unknown future. Your kids should always know where the emergency skills and kits are located in the house!
8. Practice First Aid Skills
Emergency survival kits can save lives during an emergency. Just because there is an ice storm doesn’t mean that you might not receive a huge cut on your hand. Take time to show your kids how to use the items in the kit. It’s important that your kids learn the basic first aid skills, like how to apply pressure to a wound and how to put on a bandage.
9. Never Underestimate Your Kids
Kids are stronger than you may realize. Push come to shove, kids are often able to step up and handle situations better than some adults. Most importantly, your kids need to know your family is a unit that works together and always has each other’s backs. As your kids get older, ask for their input and ideas. Kids are creative and innovative. You may be surprised!
Kids, who grow up understanding that emergency situations take place, turn into prepared adults. Your job isn’t to create a panic-filled child. Rather, teach your kids that emergencies and disasters happen, and staying calm and knowing the plan makes them less scary for everyone.