ORLANDO, Fla. – Hurricanes, which are sometimes scary for adults, can potentially be a terrifying experience for children, but they don’t have to be.
So what are the best ways to calm fears and help kids be proactive before, during and after a storm?
News 6 meteorologist Candace Campos asked Arnold Palmer Hospital pediatrician Dr. Jean Moorjani, who has to mentally prepare her own children for potential storms each hurricane season.
After almost 12 years without a direct hit by a storm, many children in Central Florida experienced their first hurricane with Hurricane Irma, including Moorjani’s.
“Irma was my kids’ first hurricane, so they had a lot of questions,” Moorjani said. “’What is going to be like? I'm scared. What are we going to see?’”
Moorjani said she knew the storm’s potential, which is why she made sure to talk to her children about the hurricane ahead of time.
She suggests parents do the same thing with their own children if they know a storm is approaching.
One of the best ways to have that conversation, she said, is to simplify things for them.
“One way I explained it to them was, a hurricane is going to be everything in nature that you already have seen, but it's going to be a little bit stronger,” Moorjani said.
Although the storm was a scary sight for many, Moorjani said it was actually a good thing that many kids were able to witness the power of Hurricane Irma, because it serves as a frame of reference when having to talk to them about other potential storms in the future.
Moorjani said you can use Irma to remind them of what needs to be done before and when a storm hits.
She said the next conversation can go something more like this:
“Ok, so remember when Irma came last year? Remember what we do to prepare, and remember we did great from all of our preparations?”
Get them involved
In addition to talking to children about a storm, Moorjani said involving them in hurricane preps can also help ease anxiety.
“It helps kids have control and they're getting themselves and their families prepared for the situation,” she said.
Letting kids tackle tasks as simple as counting batteries, organizing flashlights and even letting them pack their own small bag can make a difference for them. Moorjani said helping them pick a few favorites to pack, like their favorite toy, stuffed animal or activity to do, can be key when it comes to comforting them -- as long as their chosen items don’t require a plug.
Avoid last-minute preps
Though counting them in on the preparations can help you get them ready way ahead of time, it’s the last-minute running around ahead of a storm that is particularly stressful for children, according to Moorjani.
“I think that is where kids can see a lot of the anxiety, if they are with their families as they are going to the stores and they see the kind of craziness that's happening when people are grabbing water and other items,” Moorjani said.
She said the biggest takeaway is to make sure that you begin preparing not only yourself, but your little ones, as early as possible, even if the storm doesn’t have as much of an impact as predicted.
“I think the biggest thing is to stay calm and start preparing now and get the kids involved in the preparations,” she said. “So it's better to be prepared, and if it doesn't happen, then that's better.”