Preparing Kids for Hurricanes (Without Freaking Them Out) - Promise
Preparing Kids for Hurricanes (Without Freaking Them Out), Promise, Powered by Nemours Children's Health System

Preparing Kids for Hurricanes (Without Freaking Them Out)

Hurricanes can be pretty scary events — for grown-ups and kids alike. From a developmental standpoint, we know that children learn how to respond to situations based on the behaviors and attitudes of those around them. So here are some tips to help them — and you — be ready this hurricane season.

Talk about hurricanes.

Kids might be confused about what a hurricane is, so use simple age-appropriate descriptions of what they might expect if one is coming your way. For a younger child, you might say, “A hurricane is a tropical storm with very strong winds and lots of rain, lightning and thunder.”

It’s also important to stress to kids that grown-ups will do their best to keep them safe.

Try to remain calm yourself.

Kids are sponges and can easily sense the emotions of those around them. When a parent seems overly upset or worried, this may unintentionally amplify a child’s own fears or worries.

Let your children be involved in prestorm preparations.

Busy bodies can help minds be less busy. Participation in age-appropriate helping roles can also increase a child’s sense of control over the situation.

  • Have a family Disaster Emergency Kit. Kids can help collect canned goods and get flash lights ready.
  • Have your kids help bring in outdoor items.
  • Discuss your family’s disaster plan together. Will you need to evacuate — and what would that look like? Which grown-ups will do what? This will help your children have an idea of what to expect.

During the storm…

  • Have your child select a few comfort items, nonelectronic games or toys in case of power outages.
  • Try to keep as normal a routine as possible. Familiar routines can help children feel calm and safe.
  • Encourage kids to talk about their feelings or thoughts about what’s happening. Though some kids might not prefer to talk right away — and that can be OK, too. Spend time together and let them know that you’re there when they’re ready.

After the storm…

  • Monitor media exposure. There can be “too much coverage” leading up to and especially after a hurricane has hit. These images might be too much for young eyes and sensitive hearts.
  • Let children help with clean-up.
  • Pay attention to signs of stress, including nightmares, regressive behavior/acting younger than their age and extra clinginess. These are common symptoms for children who’ve experienced a traumatic event. If you see any of these signs, make sure you talk to your doctor and know that there are licensed and trained counselors available throughout our community that are here to help.

Resources: Learn More
10 Tips for Keeping Children Safe in a Hurricane (Save the Children)
Hurricanes (Federal Emergency Management Agency/FEMA)
Hurricanes Toolkit (Sesame Workshop)

Amanda Montgomery, LCSW

About Amanda Montgomery, LCSW

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Amanda is the social worker lead at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Orlando. She is an outpatient therapist in the Behavioral Health division, where she sees children for various emotional needs, including anxiety, depression, ADHD, and adjustment to chronic illness.