Keeping Kids Calm During an Earthquake
Earthquakes are scary for everyone, but they’re particularly terrifying for children. When the ground suddenly starts shaking, it damages a kid’s sense of security. Children need to feel safe, and the suddenness and randomness of earthquakes disrupts this feeling of safety. As an adult, you need to help kids stay calm during and after an earthquake.
Recognize the Signs
Kids may not verbalize their fear. They may show it in other ways. Crying and shaking are obvious signs of fear. Clinginess, tantrums, and acting out may also be due to the stress and trauma. In the long term, they might have changes in appetite, trouble sleeping, and other signs such as bedwetting. Pay attention to your kids and how they’re behaving so you know when they need you.
During the earthquake, talk to your kids. Tell them what’s going on and try your best to smile and remain calm. Keep them close to you and reassure them, answering any questions they have and calming any concerns. Make sure they understand fully what’s going on and what you need to do to stay safe.
Keeping Kids Distracted
An earthquake or disaster is a major upheaval for a child. More than usual, they’ll need their favorite toys, games, and snacks. These will bring them comfort and also keep them busy, which will get their mind off of what’s going on. They’ll offer a break from the quake. While you’re at it, make sure you have your own distractions too. They’ll help you relieve stress.
Stick to Routine
As much as possible, stick to your ordinary routine, even if there are aftershocks or you have to live in a shelter. Kids need routine and they need for life to be predictable. When they have routine, it gives them a sense of order and that’s what’s really needed during a crisis. If things are disorganized and spontaneous, this may add to your child’s anxiety.
Have the Talk
Long before an earthquake strikes, talk to your kids about earthquakes. Explain what they are and why they make the earth shake. Tell them about the real dangers of earthquakes (fire, falling objects, etc.). When you explain the dangers, it keeps them from creating their own imaginary dangers, such as the ground opening up and swallowing them. Explain to them clearly what you all need to do if there’s a quake and practice leaving the house so that it’s automatic.
Teach by Example
In any type of crisis, it’s important that you keep your composure. If you’re scared, your kids will be scared. You need to be calm so they know things are under control (even if they’re not!). This is easier said than done, but here are some ways to keep yourself calm in an earthquake:
* Be logical. Keep irrational thoughts at bay. These thoughts can easily spiral into panic.
* Stay in the moment. Don’t project to future things that could happen or relive the initial trauma. Stay focused on what needs to be done right now.
* Breathe. Take deep breaths. Deep breathing controls the mind through the body. When the body is calm, the mind naturally follows.
* Faith. Know that you’ll be alright and help will arrive.
If you need to cry or freak out, do it somewhere the kids can’t see you. You may need to break down and have a good cry, but you don’t want them to see it at a time like this.
An earthquake doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience for your kids. Part of your earthquake preparedness plan is to prepare for how you’re going to keep everyone calm in the quake’s aftermath.
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