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Taking a Wild Ride

Sunday, September 24, 2017

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Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have taken their toll on our personal property and our private emotions. Watching the Weather Channel for hours on end, seeking storm updates, made us feel like we were on a roller coaster. And I never liked roller coasters...too scary!

Intellectually we knew what needed to be done to physically prepare for a hurricane: remove outside objects; shutter/board windows; purchase non-perishable foods; fill the gas tank; place important papers in plastic; buy batteries; fill bathtub; locate nearest shelter; etc. Preparing emotionally, however, proved to be a more difficult task.

Unpredictability is the hallmark of wild rides. But, unlike roller coasters, we don't know exactly when hurricanes will start or where they will end. That uncertainty, coupled with a race to finish the physical preparations, is anxiety-producing to say the least. How can we help our children decrease their anxiety when ours is so high? Here are just a few suggestions for hurricanes but they would be appropriate for any dangerous weather conditions.

1. BE INFORMED: Discuss age-appropriate information with your child. Explain what they might expect to happen. Consider purchasing books on hurricanes and have older children conduct research about hurricanes.

2. BE PREPARED: Create a Family Plan. Include what needs to be purchased and what needs to be accomplished for safety reasons. Give each child a specific task to complete. This will emphasize the importance of working together as a team in order to accomplish a goal and will give them some sense of control.

3. PROVIDE CALM SUPPORT: Acknowledge your children's feelings. Help them understand that it's normal to be anxious when you don't really know what the outcome may be. If you decide to leave the area, make it a family "adventure". If you stay, have a "We can do this together!" attitude. Consider having the entire family sleep in one "safe" room. It will make them (and you!) feel more secure.

4. GET BACK TO NORMAL: After the storm passes, do your best to return to regular routines as soon as possible, realizing that the "new normal" may be different post-storm. Spend some time debriefing with the family, sharing examples of how you worked together to "ride out" the storm. Create another plan together for work that may need to be done around the house. Set realistic goals and timelines.

5. ASSIST THOSE IN NEED: There will always be others who have had major losses due to a storm. Find ways your family can help, whether it's through a food bank in the area or organizations like the Red Cross.

There are many activities in the "Don't Be That KID! At School Resource Guide" that address organization, responsibility, teamwork and being positive. I hope you will use them to help "weather" any storm. In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy!

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