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In the last twenty years, we have experienced 9/11, school shootings, weather-related phenomena, such as major hurricanes and superstorms, and now a pandemic. As if raising children in a post 9/11 world featuring social media wasn’t enough. As parents, we have to ensure that we are prepared for anything, and everything, and that our children are prepared as well. This raises the questions: What is included in planning for an emergency and how do we keep our children (and ourselves) calm in all situations?
Planning For An Emergency: When A Major Event Occurs While You Are All Separated
It was a sunny Tuesday morning back in 2001 when 9/11 happened. None of us woke up that day and thought something so tragic would occur. It was just like any other day in September. Parents got their children ready for school and then they got ready for work or the day’s tasks at hand. We were barely into the day when it happened and when it did everything stopped, went on lockdown and we all had to scramble to figure out how to get home (especially in New York City). Back in 2001, cell phones were still only flippable and small. There was no texting and children having cell phones at the time did not exist.
Planning begins at the start of the school year with paperwork being completed with instructions on what to do with your child if they cannot get through to you right away. Granted the trusted people you have on the In Case of Emergency Card may have their own things going on, but you should have at least a few people noted. I would also consider adding a classmate’s parent that you trust to have your child go home with.
Children should know not to panic when things go wrong. They have to remain clear-headed.
If your child is of the younger school age, they should have additional emergency contact information within their notebook in addition to the information noted on the emergency card. For older children, they should have emergency contacts committed to memory and noted on their phones. Even though they are older, it should still be encouraged to carry numbers in case.
The simple explanation is that if cell service should not work, you have it. It’s also one less thing to think about and one less thing to worry about it. During this time, our children should have a safe space to wait for parents to return home. Whether it be at home with the doors locked or with a friend/neighbor.
Planning For An Emergency: When There Is A Major Event Happening At School
This was the hardest part to write and it was saved for last. Harder than 9/11 and harder than the pandemic. This is where parents feel the most helpless. Our children are supposed to be safe within the confines of school. Unfortunately, at times that is not the case. This is where we as parents should be as transparent as possible with our older children and tell them to stay out of sight and in place until law enforcement arrives if they can’t get out. Listen to the teacher’s instructions to try and keep as calm as possible. Keep cell phones silent. For much younger children, it should be encouraged to always, always listen to the teacher and pay close attention.
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Planning For An Emergency: Weather-Related Phenomena
The weather isn’t as clean-cut and dry as it used to be. Earthquakes are happening in different parts of the country, hurricane season lasts longer than it used to, and sometimes it makes a trek towards the mainland of the country. During some storms, we even get hail. Remember when it used to just rain and you heard thunder and lightning? Yeah. Now, you just don’t know.
You’ve seen numerous movies (especially earthquake movies) in which they have a preparedness kit ready in case. That tidbit should apply to all storms. There should be one in the closet closest to the exit. Something that can be grabbed quickly when you leave the house.
Something your children can access in case you are not home if a storm should strike. A plan should be put into place with your family on what to do should a disaster strike. Establish a meeting place that is easy to find in case you should get separated during the crisis.
This plan should be practiced by the entire family, so there is no panic if and when this should occur.
Planning For An Emergency: 2020 And The Pandemic
A pandemic was not on the list of things that needed to happen in 2020, or any year for that matter. Covid-19 has affected the entire world and in March, it managed to shut down the country in the blink of an eye. Schools and jobs shuttered and we were left with the task of putting on a happy face and trying to make the most of a situation along with trying to understand what was going on without panicking ourselves and staying healthy.
Sesame Street’s special on it was great for younger children in teaching why it was so important to wash your hands and ways to stay safe. Some children were already knowledgeable about what was going on, it was our job to try to explain it without scaring them but keeping them in the loop.
This particular emergency is more delicate than the others because in this case, many of us did not have access to our family should anything occur to either parent should they fall ill. The hardest part is the parent who is still well has to stay as healthy as they possibly can. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. It is a huge undertaking for a parent to go solo and to carry for everyone’s needs as well as their own and their spouse.
The most important thing is to be honest with your children (depending on the age of course). Sugarcoat, but don’t make it super sweet, because children are smart and they can see right through it. It may even make it worse. If things should go from 14-day quarantine to something more severe and a parent/family member should wind up in the hospital, follow your heart on how to tell your child. In the end, you will know exactly how to tell them. There is no one way to do it. All children are different when it comes to a crisis.
As with any emergency, should you and your spouse fall ill, you should have a plan with a family member or neighbor. Yes, it’s a pandemic. Yes, children can be asymptomatic, but someone needs to be there for your children.
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Parenting has more curveballs than baseball; parenting is hard. You never know what is going to be thrown at you, which is why you have to be ready for anything and nothing proves that more than this year. Planning for an emergency doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming. Come up with a simple plan that works best for your family and lifestyle so everyone is…prepared. For information on how to prepare for any and all emergencies, go to www.ready.gov.
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