By ERIN SILVER
Entertaining kids in a storm can be a challenge, especially when they’re used to playing outdoors or indoors with electronics. To reduce their anxiety and keep them busy at the same time, experts offer caregivers some easy-to-follow advice.
The first and perhaps most important is to remain calm yourself. This will help you to be in control and reassuring to children, who can easily sense when a parent or guardian is anxious. They feed off that energy and can get upset if they think the adults who are caring for them are worried themselves. Soothe them by repeating reassuring statements. This might include such things as, “Don’t worry, this will be over soon” and “I’m here for you”. Take them through breathing exercises, which will relax their nervous system – and yours. Ask them to close their eyes, breathe in for four counts, hold, then release slowly. Repeat several times until everyone is feeling calm. Then, give them lots of quality time to distract them from the storm outside.
This raises another question: how can you keep kids busy when there’s perhaps no electricity or access to tablets? There’s actually a lot you can do to have fun but it helps to prepare a storage bin of activities in advance.
Set up a tent inside using your couch or chairs; build a fort using bed sheets and blankets. Make sure that whatever you use is sturdy and safe and won’t fall down on children. Grab a flashlight and make shadow puppets on the walls, tell stories or read to children from their favourite books. If you have a tablet, make sure you have books or music downloaded in advance. Have a dance party or listen to an audio book. Play cards or board games, just like how you used to when you were a kid. Teach them new strategies or games they don’t know. Or stick to their favourites. If you’re at home, why not have a pyjama party in the process?
All this creative play time can leave you feeling hungry. Don’t forget to nourish yourself and your children. Take out their favourite healthy snacks and use up foods you have in your pantry. You should also try to make use of the foods in your fridge or freezer before they spoil in a power outage. Spread out your foods on a blanket for an indoor picnic. Make sure you and your kids are well hydrated by drinking lots of water.
Why not watch the storm? Many people find them thrilling. For anyone who is nervous, it’s a great time to face storm fears head on, especially within the safety of your own four walls. Avoid listening to the news while your children may overhear. Try, as well, not to talk about it with your partner in a way that might cause children to worry. Kids listen to everything! Instead, talk to your kids about how experts are monitoring storms and keeping people safe. Let them know how everyone from doctors to firefighters are on hand to help in an emergency. Talk to them about how the storm will pass and about all the fun things you’ll do when it’s over and it’s safe to go outside again.