Families with Infants and Young Children
If you have young children with little or no grasp of language, you obviously won’t involve them in your conversation about disasters. But as soon as they are old enough to walk and talk, they should be involved in at least some part of both the conversation and the preparation. It doesn’t take long for them to begin processing what they see and hear on television, so get ready to field their questions!
In addition, school aged children are likely to hear other kids or teachers talking about things such as war, terrorism or the flu. Their preschool may have a disaster plan (communicating this information in an age-appropriate context) and may occasionally conduct emergency drills. If you have not yet heard what plan your child’s school or daycare has in place, inquire about it and get a copy.
To exhibit consistency with the concept of preparedness, you might also review this plan with your child at home. Doing so will instill a sense of confidence in your ability to be calm under duress, enabling them to feel more comfortable and secure.
Families with Older Children
By the time your children are in first grade, they are participating in fire drills at school. At this stage their school probably has a disaster plan, so ask about it. Don’t underestimate what children know and their ability to contribute; including them in your planning is a must!
When children reach middle school and high school they will be able to participate more fully because they will have developed a sense of what can go wrong in their world. As teenagers they will have acquired some basic skills to evaluate an emergency or crisis situation and how to respond to it.
If you are a single parent you may think talking about disaster preparedness is too daunting. But remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Teaming up with another single parent or two in your neighborhood will be mutually beneficial. Anyone involved in the care of your children, such as babysitters, daycare workers, nannies, grandparents, etc. should be a part of your conversations and plans.
Depending on their ages and their health, seniors may not be able to move as quickly or think as clearly as before, and may become easily disoriented. However, experience is on their side and they can contribute greatly to planning your response to a disaster. Just be sure to take into consideration any limitations they may have when preparing your plan.
People with disabilities are no different than the extremely young or elderly in needing to be included in your conversations and planning. Individually assess the potential situations that might develop and the unique challenges each one would pose. Don’t underestimate the ability of the disabled to understand their own vulnerabilities or to respond and contribute appropriately in a crisis.
Next>> The Conversation