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Preparing Children for Emergencies
Intense circumstances create high amounts of stress, not only for adults,
but children also. Whether it is a fire, flood or earthquake, children need to
know what to do and how to do it in order to minimize stress and anxiety. Have
you heard stories on the news about a child who saves a family by staying calm,
calling 911, and following directions? Being prepared to help in an emergency
saves lives. What makes it possible for a child in a high stress situation to be
ready to help?
Establish and Practice Home Emergency Plans. Everyone in the family
needs to be aware of potential disasters and what to do if they occur. Start
family emergency planning with a brainstorming session. (Depending on the age of
your children you may need to explain that brainstorming is sharing whatever
comes to mind. No idea is bad and no one should be laughed at for their
contributions.) After brainstorming pull out the most effective ideas and make a
family written plan and post it in a public place. Put plans into action by
rehearsing drills. After each trial, evaluate performance to make the plan run
more smoothly. Planning in such a way allows children to maintain control of
their responses and actions, even when emergencies are out of their control.
Planning increases their ability to respond calmly in an emergency.
Enroll Youth in Programs. Community youth programs teach important
life skills. These programs prepare children by enlarging upon the lessons from
home and school. Organizations such as The American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of
America, Girls Scouts of U.S.A, and R.A.D. Kids promote emergency preparedness
and skills, and often assist families by offering good exercises to do at home.
First Aid Classes. Teach, review, and practice basic first aid with
children. Talk about more complicated first aid procedures, even if they are not
physically capable of doing them. Although children may not be able to perform
procedures such as CPR, clearing a person's airway, or giving mouth-to-mouth
resuscitation, it is beneficial for them to know what it is in case they ever
witness it. Traumatic events cause more fear and tension if they are completely
new or unfamiliar.
Community Service. Create a sense of belonging, responsibility, and
service for your family by participating in city wide clean-ups or other service
projects. Involvement teaches children that many hands make light work and that
we all need to help each other to get a job done. If there ever is a need for
community work during an emergency children will know how to help and work
Teach Health and Fitness. Having a strong mind and a healthy body
aids a person in a disaster. Being able to react and withstand challenges is an
important component of physical readiness. Youth can help with tasks such as
sandbagging, shoveling, and cleaning if they have been physically active and
living a healthy lifestyle.
Laughter is the Best Medicine. Humor reduces stress and anxiety by
releasing feel-good hormones in the brain, promoting positive thinking and
emotion. Make humor apart of everyday life. Encourage good jokes and optimism.
Practice making tense situations lighter with laughter. Children will be
reassured and relaxed during the stress that is associated with emergency if
they can have the healthy outlet of laughter.
Being prepared for possible emergencies increases confidence, knowledge and
skill in children of all ages. Because emergencies can cause high stress and
have a negative impact and effect on people's lives, especially children, it is
important to take the necessary steps to prepare them for such situations. Also
remember that children react to the emotions of those around them and can sense
when there is fear, stress or anxiety. The best way to help a child in an
emergency is to be prepared to deal with the situation yourself.
Francesca Black is a
prolific writer and has generated a number of
educational articles about emergencies. Additional
articles can be found at Prepare for Emergency
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