Weather disasters are traumatic enough, especially for kids, but when they happen during what should be a happy adventure, like your family’s RVing trip, the trauma can be even greater. The shock of seeing a happy experience turn extremely bad unexpectedly can affect kids in ways we adults never anticipated.
Often, our kids can’t express how such an event has affected them, so we may not realize they need help specific to post disaster recovery.
Fortunately, not only is such help available, but there are ways to prepare your kids ahead of time to at least be aware that weather and natural disasters do happen, can happen anywhere, any time, and that knowing what to look for and being prepared can help keep everyone safe.
Be Prepared with and RV-Specific Emergency Plan
Having a basic emergency preparedness plan is essential when RVing. For kids, just knowing that Mom and Dad have it together and that you rehearse your emergency routine is comforting. Knowing that you have survival needs packed in an emergency kit, that food and water will be available, and that you have a plan to get everyone back together if the emergency occurs while you are in different places can be very reassuring to kids. In addition to what’s discussed in the above-linked emergency plan article, make sure your kids have an alternate adult to contact in case they get separated from you.
Acquaint Kids with Weather Resources
Kids hear about weather extremes on the news and at school, but unless they get involved with projects that bring these to life, they, like so many of us, may think that these are things that happen to other people.
Programs like “Storm Chasers” can give kids some idea of both the danger and the challenge of staying safe from tornados, high winds, and heavy rains.
YouTube has unlimited videos of weather and natural disasters, giving a more realistic picture of the damage that can be done and how people are affected during and after these events. Viewing these with your kids gives you an opportunity to show them what they might be able to do, and warn them against taking specific risks–all to keep them safe and survive until help arrives.
There are also several online sites where kids can learn about severe weather and other disasters.
This site describes a dozen different kinds of weather and disasters, for example, what a hurricane or tornado is, and how they form, or earthquakes and volcanoes. It has games, experiments, jokes, folklore, and even optical illusions such as upside-down rainbows, double rainbows, blue jets, blue moon, moonbows, sprites, elves and more.
Kids can sign up for a weather newsletter, and under games is the Weather Wiz Kids® Safety Hunt that teaches kids what goes into a weather emergency kit.
If you’re like me, you may get so absorbed you forget to turn this one over to the kids. There are lots of interesting pages, even for adults and plenty of stuff I never knew (blue jets? Elves?) And on the joke page, though meant to be a joke (riddle), there’s a very basic tip...
How do you find out the weather when you vacationing in your RV?
Go outside and look up!
Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, this site provided by UCAR (another excellent weather and climate site, though more adult oriented,) Friends of UCAR, and Boulder Valley School District Science Discovery has safety information, games, stories, activities, and information about how weather elements combine to produce different weather conditions.
This is another great site for your kids to learn about weather, and it even has a section on forecasting with links to the National Weather Service, Weather Underground, the Weather Channel and Unisys. What a great way for kids to become aware of both safe and dangerous weather indicators. Combine this knowledge with a preparedness plan and your kids might actively help you respond to weather emergencies before they happen.
NOAA’s site is almost an information overload. Click on the “Safety Tips” icon and you’re taken to another page that has several links. One, for example, is the “Kid’s Hazards Quiz” that lists almost a dozen quizzes on various weather hazards, including one on a family disaster plan.
Activities such as this help kids become familiar and comfortable with the idea that a disaster plan is an ordinary preventive expectation, not a prediction that a disaster will happen to them. Knowing what to do during a disaster as well as how to identify one and get to safety before it happens can only make kids feel more secure.
Other features on this site include (partial list) a list of activities under “Other Fun Stuff” and links to information on different weather events, and much more.
It’s Not Just Kids
While you’re thinking of helping your kids feel safer and more comfortable when the weather spins out of control, don’t forget your pets. Thunder, lightening or wind often frightens animals. I had an otherwise fearless cat that headed for the windowless hallway whenever he heard thunder. He, like any kid, needed some reassurance and comforting, but without the ability to communicate in words, it was up to me to be aware of his unusual behavior, and to reassure him.
For more information about weather and natural disasters see "Emergency Preparedness for RVers" for links to preparedness planning for all different emergencies.