Five Things: When Facing a Storm with Kids
O LORD God of hosts, who is like You, O mighty LORD? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. You rule the swelling of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.(Psalm 89:8-9 NASB).
As Hurricane Irma approaches South Florida, we brace with white knuckles for her arrival on the US East Coast. She comes on the heels of Hurricane Matthew who hit our area hard almost one year ago.
In fact, even one year later we are still in the process of recovering from Matthew, so we took extra time to batten down the hatches at our school and to prepare our home for what is to come this weekend. Our windows are boarded, sand bags are in place, the rockers and planters are inside, the board game box is out, and we have gathered plenty of food.
Storms of this kind have been a part of our lives with our kids at every age and stage because of where we have lived. Although each storm is different, how we respond is the same.
- Stay calm. You cannot place an adult perspective on a child’s reality. Children do not understand the gravity of the situation. They will react to you, not the hurricane. If you fret and worry in front of them, they will fret, worry, and act out as well. If you stay calm, they will stay calm. They are watching you, and their emotions will mirror yours.
- Explain what is happening. This is a great time to talk science! I am not a science person, but I love to learn with the kids.
* Hurricanes use warm water as an energy source to go faster and they slow down once they hit land.
* The middle of the hurricane is called the “eye” and it is usually the calmest and quietest part of the storm, while the “eye wall” is the most dangerous part. (Yes the “eye” of a hurricane actually came over us one year!)
* Hurricane names follow the letters of the alphabet which is why Jose (J) is following Irma (I). The names are created ahead of time to label the storm systems.
* Although the strong winds from the hurricane are dangerous, the tornadoes and storm surges are what cause the most damage.
- Teach children how to prepare for the storm. It is not too early to learn how to buy extra water and food that might not need power to cook. Brainstorm and create a list together. Children can help in the kitchen ahead of time to prepare food such as muffins, bread, or cookies for the next few days. They can help you pick out some special indoor crafts, or clay/wood to paint, or a new set of play doh. Get out the candles and the lighters. They want to be a part of it all. My older children now help my husband board the windows and place the sand bags where they need to go. Your family is a team and everyone has a part to play.
- Explain the beginning, the middle, and the end of the process to your children. Talk about what you are doing, so that when you have to spend a long period indoors they are not surprised. Talk about the evacuation route or the “hunkering down” process and talk about the process that takes place afterward when the entire community will come together as one to clean-up. Hurricanes do one thing well – they bring people together.
- Enjoy the “hurricane party.” Some of my kids’ favorite memories are of playing flashlight tag in the dorm where all the families from our school campus “hunkered down” together. This is a time to come together to reconnect after the busy start of the school year. So play games with your kids, watch movies together, read good books, and enjoy the junk food. These are the memories that they will treasure always.
The damage is unpredictable and the uncertainty is heavy. We may lose power and water for days. It will be stressful, but your children need you to lead well and love well during this period.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).
So take time to pray. Pray on your own and pray together.
The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him (Nahum 1:7 NIV).
Heavenly Father, Please continue to watch over our friends and family who are in the path of Hurricane Irma. We need Your protection, strength, and guidance. Wherever we have “hunkered down” with family and friends, may we find rest from this storm in You. Please bring us together as one as we seek You through it all. And may the peace that transcends all understanding invade our hearts as we remember – You still hold the whole wide world in your hands. In the precious name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.
We are praying for you,