With hurricane season approaching now is a great time to get your family prepared. With severe storms and hurricanes, we can often expect very strong winds that topple trees, flying debris, lots of rain with thunder and lightning, flash floods and general chaos. Can you imagine how scary this must be when seen through a toddler’s eyes? Toddlers have a vivid imagination and very real fears, so it is vital that we prepare them for this season, and teach them all about hurricane safety.
Teaching Toddlers How To Stay Safe During A Hurricane
There are many things you can do as parents to teach your toddlers about hurricane safety and at the same time, remove the fear factor.
Before a hurricane:
- Start by explaining what a hurricane is, using age appropriate words. Keep your explanation simple and to the point.
- Always make your conversation interactive. Allow your toddler to ask questions and express any fears. Never minimize what they may be feeling but reassure them, and help them separate fact from fantasy.
- Use books, draw pictures and even watch some educational hurricane videos.
- Reassure them that you will always keep them safe during the storm. They need to be 100% confident that an adult will be with them and that they will be safe.
- Practice what you will do if there is a hurricane. Show them what preparations you will make and what part of the home you will be in, and what their role will be during the preparations.
- A good idea may be to not switch on any lights one evening, but only use the emergency LED lights you will be using if there is a power outage. This will give your toddler an idea of how dark the house will be but how much can be seen using portable lighting. Use the evening to play games, have pillow fights etc. Help them associate the darkness with fun, not fear.
When you receive the hurricane alert:
Involve your toddler in all the preparations, giving them age appropriate tasks, they can perform. This will educate them about safety measures, make them feel part of the process and play a very big role in alleviating the fear factor. Some tasks they can help with, when the time comes, are:
- Ask them to bring any toys or small items that are laying around in the yard, inside.
- Ask them to find your pets and make sure they are indoors.
- Ask them to hand you the containers you will need to fill with water. Let them put the plug in the bathtub and explain to them why you need to fill it with water.
- Let them close all the interior doors and explain why that must be done.
- Let them help you carry all the linen, pillows, water, food, toys, books, clothing etc. to the area you will be staying in during the storm.
- Let them help you pack the emergency backpack with their items. Allow them to choose what they want to pack. Do not forget their comfort toy / blanket.
- Let them point out the appliances you will be unplugging, use this to teach them why they need to be unplugged but make it fun, in the format of a game.
During the storm:
- Teach your toddler to stay clear of windows, glass doors and skylights, even if they have been boarded. Explain to them why, using simple words and phrases. They need to understand the danger but not be fearful.
- Keep them entertained. Play games, read them stories, build blanket and pillow forts, sing songs, play shadow puppets on the wall with the light from the flashlight, etc. The main aim is to distract them from any noises outside, prevent them from getting bored and also prevent them from being afraid.
- Use every opportunity to teach them about safety but make it fun.
After the storm:
Teaching your toddler what they may and may not do after the storm is also very important. If they have been indoors for a long while they will be anxious to go outside. Before they do, make sure they know the following:
- They must only go outside if you tell them it’s safe to do so. Teach them about the eye of the storm, that it may seem calm outside but that the storm is not over yet.
- They must not touch any loose wires or wires on the ground. They must tell an adult if they see any loose power lines on the ground.
- They must not walk or jump in any puddles, there may be electrical wiring on the ground in the puddle.
- Monitor any media exposure. You want your toddler to be informed but not traumatized.
- Allow them to talk about what they experienced. Monitor them for any signs of stress or trauma like nightmares, regressive behavior or clinginess, seek counseling if necessary.
Toddlers will be more likely to stay calm if the adults around them are calm. It is important that they understand that following instructions will keep them safe. If they understand why they need to do certain things, and you make it fun, your toddler should be safe during and after the storm.
At Parkland Children’s Academy we offer the fundamental tools to enhance toddler development while emphasizing the basic need that toddlers have – to have fun!