23 May Severe weather safety
by Katelin Whiddon
In Central Arkansas, we have dealt with many severe weather tragedies. The most recent was the April 27 tornado that raged through several towns, taking the lives of far too many. Being prepared and safe in a storm is very important, and in this part of the country, we should always be one step ahead.
Know where your safe place is and tell your children. They can comprehend this even at preschool ages.
If a storm shelter or safe room is not available, find an interior room, away from windows and sharp objects. Try to cover your children as best as possible and pad yourselves with comforters, mattresses, couch cushions and anything that might soften the impact if something falls on you.
I saw people talk about putting bike helmets on their children — and that is actually not a bad idea. I have seen several reports of head injuries — these may have been prevented or lessened if they had protection for their head.
Be sure to have yourself and children fully clothed with tennis shoes so that they do not incur any extra injury if they have to climb over objects after the storm.
Try to stay calm. I know this is easier said than done, but children feed off of our emotions. If your child falls and you tell them they are OK and to “brush it off,” they generally get up quicker with less of a reaction. However, when you squeal, run over to them and panic, they quickly panic as well. In the case of storms, stay calm before and after the storm so that your children will also.
SHARING BAD NEWS
Many wonder how to address the tragic events with their children. This is an area that not one piece of advice applies to all families. You may want to share more information with older children and those more closely affected. Also, children who tend to have more generalized fear and anxiety will need to know minimal details.
Children will likely hear what has happened from someone — even if you choose not to talk about it. I, personally, would rather be the one to share this with my children so I can be available to answer any questions they may have. Being open with your children will allow them to feel comfortable coming to you with questions and to express their feelings.
Let your children help after a tragedy. Older children can help in the more physical ways, where younger children can help by praying for those affected, donating their toys or clothing and helping you shop for the needs of families. Even my 4-year-old wanted to give her toys to “tornado families.”
Try to allow things to remain “normal” for your children. If they have doctor appointments, extra curricular activities, school, etc., they should return to those as soon as possible. Children do best with structure and routine, and allowing them to keep these will not only give them the structure they need, but will also be a good distraction from something so horrible elsewhere.
Always know that there are counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists and other professionals trained to help you and your children cope in these situations.
A native of Conway, Katelin Whiddon is a family nurse practitioner at Central Arkansas Pediatrics. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.