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Preparing with Children for Spring Storms

If you were wondering to yourself whether spring would ever return, you got your answer this week. As the lightning danced across Wednesday’s night sky, Mother Nature reminded us that it’s not always a peaceful transition from winter to spring.

For weather geeks like my husband and me, spring is an exciting time of year, meteorologically speaking. The adrenaline rush from an approaching thunderstorm is second only to the thrill of an approaching blizzard.

Still, for others, especially children, spring storms can be frightening. They can even be deadly. Heed recommendations to seek shelter and be prepared well ahead of the storm.

One of the downsides of our extreme weather is that it sometimes wreaks havoc on one of our most precious commodities – electricity. You really don’t realize how much you depend upon electricity until you don’t have it. In my home, when the power goes out, it inevitably creates a chain reaction of events: the battery back-up on the alarm clock fails, the cell phone is out of power, there isn’t a match to be found or the candle to go with it, the bottled water has been used for the fish tank, the flashlight is misplaced, the batteries in the radio are dead, and there’s a load of sopping wet laundry in the washing machine.

When the gusty winds knock down power lines, it’s inconvenient; but, healthy adults can usually power through a few hours without lights, television and running water (for those of us who have a well). But, when you have a baby who relies on formula, a toddler who wears potty training pants, or a dog who eats like a horse, the stress may mount if you’re without the necessary supplies. And, when you have a young child or pet, you don’t really pay attention to how many times a day you wash your hands after tending to diapers, feedings and spit-ups – that is, until you don’t have running water. Fortunately, we always had a drawer full of the leftover wet naps from wings’ restaurants.

It’s a similar dilemma if you’re at work or school while your child is home when the thunder is booming and the lights are flashing, Your child may feel perfectly fine being left alone, until the tornado siren blasts. Then, you’ve got to make a split second decision on how to respond so your child feels safe and calm.

I have lots of happy memories of epic storms from back in the day. My sisters, brother and I played charades by candlelight – probably not such a good idea in hindsight. By some miracle we didn’t burn the house down. We’d traipse through the neighborhood over tree branches to see the damage. Even as adults, my husband and I were so intrigued by storms that when others sought safety in their basement, we bolted outside to investigate the clouds.

All of that changed when our children were born. Our number one priority wasn’t to spot rotation and wall clouds, but rather to keep our little girls safe. Living in the country where a power outage means no running water – no drinking water, no toilet, no washing your hands water – we had to be prepared. Unlike winter storms which typically come with some warning, spring storms can pop up more ferociously than was forecasted.

When the girls were young, we kept a bag near the basement door during the peak of the spring and summer storm season. It was packed with formula, bottled water, blankets, clothes, toys, board books, a hand crank radio, flashlights, batteries and non-perishable food, and spare cash in case we had to leave in a hurry. We were ready for days of living in the basement or a hotel room, if necessary.

When threatening weather is predicted, you may want to work out a back-up plan for your child who would otherwise be home alone after school. Consider using afterschool care, having your child go to a friend or neighbor’s house or having a trusted adult stay with him or her when you can’t be there. It’s not wise to wait until thunder is overhead to walk to a neighbor’s house. (Remember the saying, “When thunder roars, go indoors.)

Thunderstorms can be frightening to children, but your reassurance can help your child feel safe. Take yourself back to a time when your hand held your child’s hand, rather than an electronic device. Here are some ideas for melting away fears when the thunder starts to clap:

  • Play charades by acting out your child’s favorite characters from movies or books;
  • Read a book with your child by a book light or flashlight;
  • Play “Twenty Questions” and sharpen your child’s skills in deductive reasoning (through a series of “yes-no” responses, guess the object your child is thinking about. Questions might include: Can I eat it? Does it live in this house? Is it red?)
  • Help your children write a story about the day the lights went out
  • Snuggle up under a blanket and share age-appropriate ghost stories;
  • Stargaze and enjoy the moon and planets;
  • Make shadow puppets using a flashlight for a backdrop;

Your children might just come to agree, that the best memories come out of the most unexpected circumstances.