You’re stuck inside, possibly until Wednesday. Your kids are bored and the power didn’t even go out yet. The wind is picking up and the rain is starting to come down.
Every television on the east coast is likely tuned to a news channel, searching for updates on Hurricane Sandy, which is barreling through as we speak. If you have the television on and you’re fielding concerned phone calls from family members, remember that your children hear and see all of it. Even if you are maintaining a calm demeanor, there is a natural state of alarm that is present when preparing for a storm of this magnitude.
Take time to talk to your kids about what is going to happen over the next two days. In simple terms, explain a hurricane. A hurricane is when there is a lot of rain and a lot of wind. Describe what you will see. You will see lots of rain, a lot of water on the ground, and the wind will blow through the trees. Describe what you will hear. You will hear the wind. It will make loud noises. If you are sleeping on the ground floor tonight instead of second-floor bedrooms, keep the tone light by telling your kids you are having a hurricane sleepover.
Telling them you are trying to avoid falling trees will only instill panic and keep everyone awake all night. Play a board game on the floor or read books together to make the sleepover fun. Keep flashlights at arm’s length so if the lights do go out, you can provide your child with light quickly. Children like to be in charge and hold their own flashlights, too; it gives them a sense of control. If you have to evacuate because of flooding, explain in a calm tone that it is not safe to stay somewhere where there is a lot of water on the ground so you will go somewhere safe until the water goes away. Do not give definite timelines for returning to your home because you cannot predict what will happen.
Tell your child you are sleeping elsewhere for tonight and you will check on the water tomorrow. Many people have prepared bags of essential items in case of evacuation. Pack one or two sentimental items for your child, such as a picture of the family or a stuffed animal, to comfort them while away from home. It is important for children to have concrete concepts of what is going on around them but the most important factor for their security is your calm approach. Get down on their level, make eye contact, and be clear and speak slowly when talking to your children.