Q: There has been a lot of dramatic weather in our area lately and this worries my children. How do we prepare for a flood or a hurricane and what should we do afterwards?
A: Families face a variety of challenges after a hurricane or flood of other causes, but there are several steps you can take to protect and support your children during these times.
If a hurricane could hit your community, prepare for it. Make an emergency supplies list and keep extra groceries, water, cash, and medication in a large bag or backpack to take with you when you escape. Secure your home (board up windows and put away garden furniture and other items outside the house) to reduce damage from the storm. Some storms are just too dangerous to provide protection on site, so evacuate if authorities tell you to.
If possible, do not return to your home after a storm until basic services are restored. Without running water or electricity, or when the sewer systems are not working, it is difficult to take care of children. Hospitals, medical practices and pharmacies can be closed or only offer limited services. Grocery stores and restaurants may also be closed.
Make sure your home and neighborhood are safe before bringing children home. Children and young people should not take part in the clean-up work. Floods can contain hazardous chemicals, and water can be contaminated with sewage and germs that can infect cuts or wounds.
Follow CDC tips to prevent mold growth and keep it safe to clean. If you still don’t have electricity and need to run a generator, make sure the generator is outside and at least 6 meters from your home.
Use caution as damaged structures and other debris can have sharp edges and points that can injure children and adults. Animals or spiders can hide in the rubble. Remember, children do better with routine and structure. If they are unable to return to school or childcare, establish routines within the home, such as going back to school. B. Regular eating and sleeping times. Try to limit the amount of time you are away from your children. If you have to leave children in someone else’s care, be sure to let them know when you will return.
Talk to your children about what is happening and how they are feeling. The decision not to talk about what happened makes the event even more frightening for children. Silence suggests what happened is too horrific to talk about. Start by asking your children what they heard about what happened. Ask them how they are feeling and if they have any fears or concerns. Provide reasonable but honest security. Remind the children of the steps that are being taken to protect them and rebuild the community.
How much information is helpful to children depends on their age, level of development, and typical coping style. In general, older children want and benefit from more detailed information than younger children. Be aware of how much information your children need to provide. For children of all ages, don’t give too much detail or share graphic images or emotional reporting, such as: B. TV interviews with crying victims.
Don’t tell children not to worry. Help them deal with stressful feelings instead of pretending that those feelings don’t exist or shouldn’t exist.
Look out for behavior changes that indicate your child is having difficulty coping with them. Children often experience changes in sleeping or eating, such as how they sleep. B. decreased appetite or overeating. You may struggle with anxiety or anxiety, including fear of returning to school, social withdrawal, sadness or depression, new hyperactivity or physical ailments (such as headache, abdominal pain, or fatigue).
Additionally, future storms (or anniversaries of the event) can remind children of the disaster, which can heighten feelings of distress. If these reactions persist over time, become severe, or affect your children’s learning and social skills, contact your pediatrician or other professional.
Dr. David Schonfeld is a developmental pediatrician and director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Scott Needle is a primary care pediatrician and chief medical officer for Elica Health Center in Sacramento, California. Both are members of the Executive Committee of the AAP Council on Children and Disasters. For more information, visit HealthyChildren.org, the AAP’s parenting website.