Managing the younger members of the family through a disaster event.

Podcast episode 111021

Published on November 10th, 2021

In this episode we discuss ensuring that our plans include all members of our family group, which should include both: remote and local assets. We need to be sure we include language in our plans that is appropriate for the personnel involved, remembering that others will experience the same adrenaline overload that you will, we focus on keeping instruction simplistic. By ensuring that our plans break necessary steps down far enough so that even the least educated can be successful.

In an effort to get a full 360 around the idea of including the whole family, and a different perspective on this, I’ve invited my youngest sons to talk about what they think that we, as adults, could do to ensure that that they are successful during, and following, a natural or man-made disaster. However, they key is to make a disaster, and its recovery as stressless on the younger members of our families as possible. The more we can constructively include them, the less time they have to build up stress.

So, before we really dive deep into the weeds, let’s see what’s in the old mail bag.

Troy from Illinois starts us off with “I don’t know how to really involve my young kids in our preparedness?”

Moire from New Hampshire asks “how do I provide age appropriate tasks for my children?”

Sinai from Alabama asks “how can I help my children from panicking during an event?”

Sasha from Tennessee asks “are there specific tasks for certain age groups?”

Robert from California asks “what about children who are only with me part time?”

Great questions to all those who sent them in. If I didn’t get to your question, sorry about that, but don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll touch on this topic again as its really relevant to a requirement for survival.

Surviving a natural or man-made disaster is hard. It’s even harder when the members of the household all have different priorities, and want to address those priorities along a different timeline than is desired. The idea of ensuring the family is all on board with whatever plans you have in mind, is to have a family discussion, where everyone gets to weigh in, and a total list of priorities are completed that everyone agrees on. Teaching everyone the same process is optimal for success here.

  1. Can you breathe? Will you continue to breathe clear air?
  2. Are you suffering from hyperthermia (overheating), or hypothermia (too cold)? What needs to be done to help out?
  3. Are you thirsty? Will you have something to drink in an hour? A day? A week?
  4. Are you hungry? Will you have something to eat in an hour? A day? A week?
  5. Are you protected from the elements, or from newly introduced hazards? Will the structure you’re in withstand another event?

These are the priorities. Nothing in anyone’s list should supersede these. Next, are the things that are important.

  • Family Pets
  • Favorite Toys
  • Favorite clothing or Blanket

While us adults may not consider these with any priority (other than the family pet), we need to ensure that we have something planned for securing these other things so that teammates (especially children) are not tempted to try to secure them on their own. These things are important for the psychological protection, and should be placed high on the priority list. 

As I mentioned, I want to get a complete 360 on making sure that everyone has a good idea about what they are doing during a natural disaster. In our neck of the woods our school-aged children practice three major disaster survival skills in school:

  1. Fire drills (obvious)
  2. Earthquake drills (obvious)
  3. ALICE drills (active shooter)

Honestly, how many of us adults do these drills at home? So, from a child’s perspective, that type of behavior only happens at school. This might be the wrong message that we are inadvertently sending to our kids about being prepared. We need to consider the same drills at home that they perform at school, so as to provide a level of continuity for disaster events applicability. Kids need to know that these type of events happen other than at school, and more importantly, they need to know what to do when they do.

So, I sat down with my younger sons, and although my 10 year old wasn’t willing to go on air, my 11 year old  gave me straight answers when I asked him a couple of age appropriate questions.

Older son

  1. What is the best thing us adults can do to make sure you’re successful during and after a disaster?
  2. What do you think us adults should do after a disaster to help you guys get back to normal?
  3. If you had to give another kid advice as to how to be prepared, what would it be? Why?

In summary, their perspective is very different than ours. While they want is to remain safe, and do what they’re told, an event of this magnification can be terrifying to adults, much more in children. They struggle with ensuring they are doing the right thing, as they too suffer from a chemistry dump to the brain, however their dump starts sooner than, and is typically more extreme than our adult interpretations. Events that we see as routine, may not be to a young person who may not remember the last time it happened.

Breaking down the necessary tasks based on age groups is an incredibly rough estimate, as each child is different, so really, only you know your child to make this assignments. But, included here are some basic stereotypes to use as a guide.

  • Children may be afraid of the dark, and may be afraid to be away from mom or dad following a large scale event. Again, this depends on the kid.
  • Children may not know the actual name of a particular item, a ladder hook to us may be a “storm trooper rifle” to them.
  • Children do not possess “logic” as we know it until they are much later when they have something for comparison.
  • Children may not understand any restrictions of technologies they always have.
  • Children may not have the luxury of historical knowledge regarding tools that were used before they were born.

Another critical key to remember when enduring a natural disaster with small children is that you are their barometer. If they witness you, and/or your spouse coming unhinged, they too will start panicking, which ultimately begins the vicious circle around the drain. The key for you is to get everyone involved in the plan, with action steps for when mommy and daddy lose their minds for a minute. This will be your best chance to get everyone through the disaster safely, and together. 

  1. Be sure you’re using language they know. Don’t be super technical.
  2. Work together to build a plan that works for them. Make practice semi-entertaining so that they are willing to practice frequently.
  3. Repeatedly exercise the plan making it muscle memory for the young ones.
  4. Explain your emotions, prepare them for the reality of a natural disaster.

What about accepting help? We know that if we experience a large scale event, there may be additional community resources sent in to help. Organizations like the Salvation Army, or other non-profit help groups. Does your child know how to interact with the public in an appropriate manner. As well as first responders, as children may be afraid, or worried about speaking with a first responder.

As always my friends, I am honored and humbled that you have chosen to spend this time listening to me. I deeply appreciate each and every one of you. Being prepared provides each of us with the confidence for successful survival. We mentioned before, and will certainly say again, that survival is a 90% mental task, but that 10% of physical resources is critically important.. By having a confidence and discipline, we can and will survive. Remember to be strong, be safe, and keep your head on a swivel… Peace 

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