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"No, We're Not Going to Oz Today!" Preparing Kids for Natural Disasters

Posted by Melissa A

When I was a kid, I would watch “The Wizard of Oz” almost every day. The idea that a tornado could lift an entire house seemed believable to me at the time, and whenever tornadoes were predicted in my town, I would worry that my house would be lifted away into the sky.

Recently, I experienced my first earthquake — and afterward, my two sons asked a lot of questions about it.

As an adult, I know enough about earthquakes to understand the magnitude of destruction they can cause. Luckily, the one that hit the east coast didn’t do too much more in our house than a little shaking and maybe knocking down some light items. However, it was a very strange and unsettling experience for me. I wasn’t there to talk to my kids about it, as I was at work. I did want them to know what happened and to see if they understood what they experienced. My older son, E, asked why we had an earthquake and then explained what to do for safety. I was impressed with his knowledge and understanding. My younger son, M, seemed nonchalant about it and didn’t seem to grasp the fear I felt about the situation. Hopefully, we won’t have such an experience again, but I feel it is important to realistically prepare children for natural situations that could possibly happen at some point.

Living on the east coast leaves us open to hurricanes, as well, and right on the heels of the earthquake we were visited by Hurricane Irene. There’s also the chance of experiencing a tornado or blizzard.  I never thought an earthquake would happen on the east coast, but there was apparently a small one last year that I missed. And there was even one in the Midwest. Thankfully, we’re not anywhere near a volcanic mountain. (And we can’t get scammed into buying volcano insurance like Peter was on “Family Guy,” either.)

In this day and age, a lot of things are possible and I want my kids to understand what could potentially happen and how to react in a safe manner. I don’t want to scare them, but I don’t want them to have imaginary expectations, either (like houses flying into another world). I’d rather explain to them to go someplace low and away from a window and keep their head covered, in the event of a tornado.  If I’m not nearby to protect them, I want to make sure that they know the smart and safe thing to do and that they’re not freaking out over something that could never happen, but worrying instead about protecting themselves and those around them.

Did your kids ask questions about Hurricane Irene or the recent earthquake? And how do you prepare your kids for natural disasters?


About Melissa A

Melissa A. and her husband have 2 young sons, E and M, and a new baby daughter. Melissa's son E has hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant. Melissa works as an administrative assistant for a non-profit and also runs a bullying prevention group and a book-related fan group, in addition to blogging for Empowering Parents. You can check out Melissa’s personal blog here.

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