Originally posted Aug. 5, 2008
Wild night last night, huh? As for my clan, we hunkered
down in our new home's cobwebby old basement with a game of Boggle,
our kitty, a cell phone, flashlight, crank-powered emergency radio
and a thermos of water. Oh, and some M&M's.
Best not forget the instant joy whilst dodging tornadoes and
We made a fast-grab for these items before we headed downstairs
to hang with the spiders. I'm not sure what worried
seven-year-old Holly more: the spiders or the wacky weather, but I
made a mental note to vacuum the cobwebs - and to 'get with it' and
prepare for the next time we're told by weather forecasters to take
Even though we were unsure just how serious the storm would
become, we're still relatively new to the Midwest and have never
before heard such stern, adamant weather warnings from local
So down we went. But not before grabbing the
And besides, it's good to model emergency procedures for
kids. School-aged kids are already familiar with these
routines, as they periodically practice them at school, but for the
younger set, an emergency sprint to the basement can be
frightening. Not exciting, as I dared suggest to
Holly, who set me straight as she huddled against me on my lap:
"This isn't exciting, Mommy, it's a storm."
Yes. This is true. Though I actually love watching a
storm from a cozy window seat, I can appreciate that others may not
share in my enthusiasm. That said I've never suffered any
storm damage, emotional or otherwise. If I had, I might feel
Don't pretend you're not scared, if you are. Running for
cover is scary (even if it's also a little bit exciting and
feels a tad like an adventure), and denying that it is just
confuses kids and teaches them to deny feelings. If they
express fear or shed some tears, let them know that it makes sense
that they'd find this all a bit overwhelming. You might even
regale them with tales of times you and your folks had to take
cover when you were a child, especially if you have a funny
anecdote to relate. Like the time your great-Uncle Jack
passed gas while you all crowded into the basement utility room,
making everybody gag and laugh until they cried and cousin Joey
threw-up. Make something up if you have to. Necessity
is the mother of invention.
So we passed the hour playing boggle (Holly's been pining for a
"family fun night" for a while now, but I doubt this is what she
had in mind) while I perched on a child's antique wooden folding
chair decidedly too small for my backside. The moment it
began tingling with that unmistakable pins-and-needles sensation I
seriously considered the wisdom of preparing for such
occasions. For starters, I would need a comfier chair.
I held my tongue for fear of raising the kids' anxiety, but I
decided that we would need to prepare an emergency kit should we
need to make another mad-dash to the basement. We'll let the
kids contribute to a brainstorming session on the subject of
emergency preparedness (but not during a scary
storm). Having some control over some aspect of the
experience can help kids to feel less anxious.
If, like me, you lack a finished basement outfitted with a
bathroom, fully stocked kitchen and tricked-out media room, create
an emergency kit filled with essentials and non-perishables that
you can stow in the basement just in case. Or, if you live in
a condo or high-rise where you lack basement storage, create a
portable kit that can be grabbed as you sprint to your building's
basement or emergency shelter. In this case, you might also
want to pick up a couple of those light-weight fold-up tri-pod
stools and maybe a blanket or two. (If you have pets, don't
forget to provide for them. Unless you have a portable litter
box, however, skip the food and water, unless you anticipate being
sheltered for more than a couple of hours.) Flashlights,
cellphones, fresh batteries and a crank-radio are must-haves, and
consider a camping potty (with TP!), prescription medications and
Bottled water, granola bars, dried fruit and nuts are good
choices for your kit (don't forget to periodically rotate-out and
replace expired items - even bottled water), and don't forget each
family member's favorite snack. Oh, and don't forget to tuck
in a couple of simple games. Remember, you'll be somewhat
jazzed-up, so unless you have nerves of steel, skip new activities
with complicated rules that your little ones (and you) may not be
able to grasp under the circumstances. Stick with old
familiar standbys. Familiarity is reassuring during times of
crisis. Boggle, hangman, and a deck of cards would work just
fine for my gang (Have I ever mentioned that my Psychologist-hubby
taught our ten-year-old son how to play Poker? That's another
blog post …). Sneak in a few novelties from the dollar-store,
too. You may only need to pass an hour or two in the
basement, but being well-prepared will help your family to more
comfortably pass the time.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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