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Hurricane Gustav: What will you tell the little kids?

Posted by Kristen on September 1, 2008 at 12:41 AM in Kristen
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Growing up in South Florida, we were no strangers to hurricanes. But it wasn't until Hurricane Andrew came in 1992 and flattened a good chunk of the southern part of the state, leaving no roof untouched, that we no longer looked forward to potential days off from school or work as we sat out a storm that luckily passed us by.

I remember watching the news coverage of people partying in the French Quarter just three years ago on the eve before Katrina hit. I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watched the eye of the storm that was distinct and a sign of a deadly storm.

Now we have Hurricane Gustav. We are not even near the storm but like everyone else, we are riveted to the news and weather. We have had the news on constantly at our house for the past day or so. Ever since Katrina, there isn't one person who doesn't look at the coast of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas in a situation like this and feel the dread that is the knowledge of what can happen. We watched as people evacuated. It took a few hours but before long, The Boy started asking questions about the storm. These were some of the things we did to alleviate his fears.

1. Be honest. This is a dangerous storm but people are leaving unsafe areas to find a safe place to stay. My three-year-old cannot understand flooding but he can understand that the mom and dad on the television are getting on that bus or in that car to drive to safety. This fact of parents taking care of their kids has always resonated with my son.

2. Talk about what you can do to be involved. While the hurricane is just starting to hit the coast now and the extent of the damage has yet to be determined, there will be needs identified and ways you can get involved to help some of the nearly 2 million displaced people. Focus on age-appropriate options for helping. My three-year-old can understand that another child his age that doesn't have any more toys would probably like a car or a ball.

3. Keep the conversation light and hopeful. The situation is serious but you need to make your child feel safe. There are so many people working so hard to make sure that everyone stays safe. As difficult as it was for us to do, we finally turned the television off and turned to the computer to get the news because the kids were perceptive that we were getting more and more concerned.

These were just some of the things we did. What do you your kids to help alleviate their fears?


Jennifer writes...

In 2004 my son started kindergarten. At the end of the first full week, school was cancelled for Hurricane Charley. Despite living inland, in central FL, we were hit by three hurricanes that summer.
Like you, we had to limit tv news. Waiting for these storms is stressful for everyone involved, and Sam was upset, after Charley and Frances, to hear that we were also waiting for Jeanne. He knew that we were taking precautions and were prepared (food, water, batteries). My 3yo understood less, but wanted to know what caused the "big mess" so we explained a hurricane as a big wind.
This morning Sam (now 9) was lounging in bed as we watched the news. We saw the images of Hanna, Ike, and unnamed storm #10. It's a long way till the end of the season...

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