The news is full of stories that terrify us. From the COVID-19 pandemic to raging wildfires. True emergencies are all around us. Do your kids know what to do in an emergency? Can they effectively help themselves or others? If not, it might be time to evaluate your emergency protocols as a family. Teaching your kids what to do in an emergency can save not only their lives, but others lives as well.
It's tempting to downplay the seriousness of a true emergency so as not to frighten your child. In contrast, children often feel like non-emergent situations are a crisis. Work with your children to identify what a true emergency is. You may need to come up with several scenarios and walk them through each scenario to teach them what is and isn’t an emergency. Losing a toy isn’t an emergency, but if mom or dad are hurt, it’s an emergency.
While it’s important that your child knows what to do in an emergency, you also don’t want to give them more information than they can handle. Remember, a five-year-old won’t be able to handle as much as a 15-year-old. Try to give your child as much information as they can handle for their age and developmental level.
Teach your kids the serious nature of calling 911. It’s for emergencies only. Make sure they know how to dial it on your phone. Have them memorize that number, as well as important numbers for neighbors or nearby family. Walk them through what a 911 responder will want to know. They’ll need to know your address, what has happened, and who they’re with. Explain to them that a 911 responder is there to help, so they need to listen to what they tell them to do.
When discussing emergencies with your child, help them think through more than one scenario. What should your children do if there’s a fire at home? What if they’re at school during an emergency? What are the steps in each scenario they should take to return to safety? Helping your child think through things critically now may help them think more clearly in the case that something does happen.
In the event of an emergency, you’ll want to know where your family is, and if they’re okay. Work with younger children to memorize your cell-phone number if at all possible (or stick it in a backpack or pocket). At home, have an emergency plan in case the house starts on fire, etc. Where will your family meet? How will you know if everyone made it out alright? A family emergency plan will give you and your children clear expectations about what needs to happen when something goes wrong.
Teaching your kids how to respond to an emergency is a good way to protect your family against the unthinkable. Start today, and refresh with them at least once a year so that they know what to do.