Living in the Lowcountry, our children will experience severe weather. Whether it is a hurricane, extreme flooding, tornado, or even an earthquake, we live in a part of the country that is prone to these types of events. Working in the school setting, I understand how important it is to talk to children about severe weather.
If your child attends a school grades Pre-K through fifth grade, the school provides safety drills each fall. These drills cover severe weather and how to prepare. For example, a tornado drill. This is an announced drill to teachers and children, which provides an opportunity to discuss and ask questions before the drill and the real threat of severe weather. With a recent Lowcountry hurricane threat and tornado warnings, this is an important part of the process for children. Children have a natural need to get information about the weather and they need (and want) the knowledge on how to protect themselves, whether at home or at school.
A few examples of how to talk to children about severe weather
- Tornado: Talk about how, what, when, and prepare. Discuss how the tornado is formed, what destruction it can do, and how serious it is.
Give clear-cut instructions on how to prepare:
- Go to a windowless interior room on the lowest level of your house.
- Get away from the windows.
- Go to the center of the room.
- Get under a piece of sturdy furniture, such as a workbench or heavy table or desk, and hold on to it.
- Use your arms to protect head and neck.
- Hurricanes and severe flooding: Talk about how, what, when, and give instructions on how to prepare. Discuss how hurricanes are formed and watch limited parts of the weather channel to provide the basic information. What a hurricane is will be important for children, especially those who ask a lot of questions, as well as when and where the hurricane are headed.
Again, give instructions on how to prepare:
- Watch the local news or weather channel to provide a factual time line.
- Provide a calendar for your child and start preparing each day. *Prepare slowly each day for a possible hurricane threat.
- Begin evacuation plans, include your child in the process.
- Buy supplies, include your child in the process.
- Protect your home. Show children how they can help. For example, bringing plants inside, and bringing in toys, bikes, etc.
- Back up electronics and discuss the importance of unplugging electrical household items
Practice, practice, practice with children. The more they practice severe weather drills, the more they will be prepared when the severe weather threat is real. The balance is providing factual information, answering your child’s questions while still providing a nurturing environment where anxiety is low for the child and parent.