This post is written primarily for those in the path of Hurricane Irma, but the principles apply so much to any big “storms” that our kids see approaching. Here are several things I am doing to help my kids walk through this hurricane.
- Turn off the Weather Channel. Yes, obviously, you need to be aware of what is happening, but the 24 hour news cycles that invade our home are not healthy for kids. Seeing the repeated images and hearing the over-excited weather people will just raise the anxiety in our kids (and probably us too!). Help them stay informed of what is happening, but in small, healthy, kid-sized doses.
- Help them get their feelings out. Talk to your kids about what is happening. Ask them what they are feeling. Ask specifically what they are scared about or worried about. Relieve those fears as you can. If they are worried about a person, have them call or FaceTime that person if possible. Understand that you won’t be able to relieve every fear, but talking about it sure helps.
- Be honest. Don’t promise things that you can’t guarantee. If there’s anything we learn with storms like these, it is that they are totally unpredictable. This principle is one of the very hardest. We want to say all the happy words, but we owe our kids honesty. Our first instinct is to protect our children, and that is a good instinct. Don’t frighten them unnecessarily. But don’t reassure them with promises you can’t keep. Reassure them with truth: God is in control. God is good. God is with them.
- “I don’t know” is an ok answer. If/when your kids ask why God would let this happen or why isn’t God stopping it, you don’t have to feel pressured to have a great theological answer. I am a seminary-trained minister and I don’t have answers to those “why” questions. It is ok to say, “I don’t know, but let’s talk about what we do know… God is good. He has a perfect plan. He works all things together for His good…”
- Talk through all the safety precautions you have in place. Help reassure kids by letting them see what is physically in place to protect them. Sometimes kids fill in their own blanks with images they see on media. Tell them what is safe about your house. Save your conversations about the window you’re concerned about or whatever for when you are out of their radar earshot.
- Distractions are good. As scary as this time is, it is likely that you will spend more time together as a family than you have in awhile. Use that time well. Again, don’t stay glued to the news unless it is a time of emergency and it is required. Find fun, unique ways to spend the time together. Build forts, play hide and seek, play board games, make shadow puppets, have a drawing contest… whatever. Just provide opportunities for your kids to do something other than obsess about the weather.
- Look for ways to help others. It always helps our anxiety to focus on someone else for a little bit. See if there is something you can do for friends or a neighbor. Even if it is having kids make cards for the neighbors saying they are praying for them, give them some opportunity to think outside of themselves.
- Point them towards the only One who can control this situation. As parents, we want to fix everything for our kids. We want to protect them. We get the opportunity to control so much of what happens in their little lives. This hurricane is out of everyone’s control. During this time, point your kids towards trusting God, talking to Him, and seeking Him for help. Anytime you start talking about how scared everyone is, end that conversation by praying. Tell your kids that you are scared too, but you know that God is the only one in control.
Praying for safety for all of our state and the southeast. May God’s peace that passes all understanding fill each of your homes this weekend in the middle of the storms.