Hurricane season is here and as a lifelong Floridian, I know the drill. Secure the windows and doors. Hopefully, you have impact windows and doors. Then this step is not a problem. If you have shutters, then you’re probably going to be in for a workout. Make sure you’re stocked with flashlights, batteries, water, dry goods, canned food and gasoline. Check, Check and Check! That was the easy part, now when you have children, hurricane readiness has a whole new definition!
Before I became a mom, the impending threat of a hurricane didn’t really bother me. I had experienced and lived through several major hurricanes in my lifetime. However, now that I am the sole provider for another tiny living human being, it’s certainly more nerve-racking. There are so many “what if’s” that go through your head and it seems so overwhelming to make sure you’re prepared. How can we manage during this stressful time? Make lists and check them twice; you’re going to be the Santa of hurricane season! So, let’s go over all the best things you can do to make the entire family is prepared for the season.
The Prep Work
Depending on the age of your child, depends on how much they will be able to help and understand. Make sure you’re using age-appropriate words and tasks for your little one(s).
Talk about it
First of all, it’s important that you explain about hurricanes in a calm relaxed tone and answering any questions that they may ask. Be honest and factual when explaining and answering questions, in an age-appropriate way. Things are less scary when you know what they really are! If you have a child who is afraid of thunderstorms, then this step is super important!
[Here is a great resource for parents that are looking to help their child deal with any fear or anxiety they may have, including thunderstorms and tornadoes: Powerful Strategies to Help Children Overcome Fear]
If evacuation may be required or is an option, make sure you discuss that as well. Again, staying calm and answering any questions honestly. Packing a “To Go Bag” for each family member can be helpful to ease worried little minds.
If you’re not evacuating, then make sure you discuss the safest place in your home that you can all stay if the storm gets intense. This way they’ll know why you may all be sleeping in the closet if it comes to it.
Let them help
This brings me to my next recommendation – let the child help prepare, organize and pack with you. It is important to show our kids that we are ready for whatever happens and keep them busy and involved.
If you have an itty bitty, then, of course, they can’t really help, but during these times the best thing you can do is offer additional cuddles. Babywearing while preparing can help them feel safe and secure during times of stress. Also, make sure you’re stocked up on diapers, wipes, formula (if needed) and possible medicine they may need! If you are breastfeeding and/or pumping and have a frozen stash, you’re probably worried about what happens if you lose power. Here is a great resource for what to do with frozen breastmilk during a power outage.
For toddlers and older children, enlist their help with organizing all of your hurricane supplies. Having different bins or shelves for emergency items can help find things easily when you need them. Also, consider having your child help you pack a “To-Go Bag” or emergency bag that has all the basics, like an overnight bag. They can pick out a pair of clothes, a favorite toy or game, a few nonperishables snacks, any bathroom or medical items and of course their bedtime lovey (blanket or stuffed animal).
Make sure you have your safe room prepared as well, whether it be a bath, closet or bedroom. You should have some food, water and flashlights, batteries, pillows and blankets are a good idea too. Have these things already in the space so you’re not trying to grab everything last minute. Let the little ones help with this too! The more involved kids are, the more in control they feel, which will help everyone stay calm during a hectic time!
There is plenty of serious prep work that goes into hurricane season. However, there is something that often gets overlooked – preparing for boredom! When you have babies, children and family member confined to the inside of their home for long periods, you must consider entertainment! Now is the time to make sure you are stocked up with plenty of things to keep the little ones entertained. Take a few minutes to discuss and write down a list of things you can do inside your home without power. Then make sure you have all the pieces and supplies for your new entertainment list.
Depending on the age of your children, will depend on what types of games or activities may be possible. Don’t rule out games like hide and seek (which with flashlights, can be a whole new experience) or Tag. There are also fun card games you can play with kids, like Go Fish or Old Maid, along with traditional board games. If you have older babies or toddlers, having some old fashion fun with pots, pans or Tupperware can be an easy way to entertain them!
Also, don’t rule out things like arts and craft supplies – like stickers and colored pencils or even slime. Having a few zip-top bags with different art and craft activities ready to go can come in handy when boredom starts to set in!
One of my family’s favorite activities is building a couch fort or two and decorating them with signs and drawn pictures; it can be a fun-filled way to ride out the storm!
Preparing for bedtime
It’s important to think about where you want your child to sleep if the storm is going to hitting at night or will be lingering into the overnight hours. Many parents want their child (or children) close by during these storms, and rightly so. However, if your child is used to sleeping in their own room, it’s important that you make this sleep situation different and temporary, so they do not expect to start sleeping in your room.
For little ones in a crib, I recommend bringing in a play n’ pack or travel crib into the parent’s room but make sure you set up a room divider so the child can’t directly see you. Hanging a sheet from the ceiling or across furniture can make a simple and cheap room divider. This keeps the idea that you don’t sleep with mommy but allows the child to be closer to the parents during high-stress times.
For older children, not in a crib, I recommend setting up a fort in the parent’s room. It can be fun to build and makes this sleeping situation temporary and unique. It’s important to make sure you explain why this special and make sure you’re very clear on it being for just a night or two.
These steps will help you keep the sleep expectations the same so that after the storm they don’t expect to continue the new sleeping arrangements.
During the storm
Keep all the same routines throughout the day and especially at bedtime. Children view routines as comfort and security. The best way to keep them feeling safe and secure during this time is to keep everything the same when at all possible.
Avoid watching or listening to too much media coverage. It’s okay to show your children what the storm looks like and to help explain in a more detailed way. However, media and news stations can sensationalize even the mildest things, so too much exposure can cause more stress and undo panic throughout the household.
Remember, children are always watching and listening. Keeping yourself calm will not only show them that everything is under control but help role model appropriate behavior during these types of situations.
If you do feel scared, anxious or worried, be comfortable sharing your feelings with your child. It’s also important to show how you deal with your feelings. Whether it’s controlled breathing or screaming into a pillow, it’s valuable to show our children how we process emotions during this high-stress time. Consider even sharing a family massage train, where each family member sits behind each other and gives a nice back rub. It can be a nice way to connect and relax as a family.
It’s also important to check in with your child. Ask them how they are feeling and then really listen to their answer. Sometimes, just letting them talk can help them feel better.
After the Storm
Depending on your situation with power, which is always an unknown with hurricanes, depends on how quickly you can get back to normal.
If you still have power, then life will probably get back to normal quickly, depending on the situation with daycare and school. If you didn’t get so lucky and you’re without power, it is best to check media and news stations for updates about schools, businesses and local instructions. Investing in a battery power radio can also be very helpful for this as well.
There will be plenty of chaos after a big storm, but it’s important to continue being calm and modeling appropriate behavior. Do your best to keep to your child’s schedule and routine to the best of your abilities. It will keep them feeling safe and secure.
When in doubt, here are some additional resources on preparing and handling hurricanes:
Helping Your Child with Hurricane Readiness in South Florida
Hurricanes can be scary, for sure. If conditions have interrupted your child’s sleep patterns, it might be time to call in a professional. Good Little SleeperZzz is here to help. Contact us to learn more about our services and how we can help your baby, toddler, or child learn how to get to sleep and stay sleeping through the night!