There is nothing like a minor natural disaster scare to get the anxiety flowing! Last night, shortly before midnight, those of us here on the West Coast in Canada experienced an small earthquake – strong enough to wake lots of us from a dead sleep. And strong enough to have our kids awake and asking questions as well.
So how do you handle that? What is a big person to say in response to questions like, “Will we die if there is an earthquake?” and “Are you scared mom?” and “Who will come to help us if we need it?”
I am not an earthquake preparedness specialist (although I did just hop on Amazon to beef up my supplies!). However, I do know a thing or two about what our kids will need in times like these:
1. Get your swagger on! Be fierce and in charge so your children feel like they can confidently look to you to lead them through this.
2. Don’t lie. But also don’t slam your children into the ground with hard cold facts. “Will we die?” can be answered with things like, “We are well prepared. Mom and Dad know what to do. I’m your big person. I will do my job. I’ve got you.”
3. Own your emotions. And then normalize these emotions so you don’t freak your kids out more. It is ok for you to admit to being scared. But then, normalize that with something like, “It is a mom/dad’s job to have our scared-o-meter firing at times like this because it helps us to think better about what we are doing. So don’t be worried – I’m just doing my job. I will take care of you.”
4. Have a plan. There is safety in boundaries and expectations. And the same can be true of earthquakes or fires or any other natural/unexpected disaster. In the calm moments, confidently script out your plan with your children so everybody is sure that if the worse were to happen, you would all know exactly what to do.
5. Highlight the role of the helpers. Fred Rogers is often quoted as talking about what his mom would say to him in times of disaster or upset, and that was to “look for the helpers.”
Highlight for your children that there are teams of people, and municipal, provincial, and national plans in place to help keep everybody safe and cared for in the case of a natural disaster. Every big person is going to have a job, and they will all be doing their jobs so the children and families are taken care of.
The biggest thing in all of this is going to be to deliver on the above with a fierce confidence that absolutely has your children knowing you’ve got this. Even if, like me, you are now secretly contemplating a move to a non-earthquake prone prairie province (!).
Make this the year that you stop feeling helpless or angry at your child’s behaviour. You don’t have to go to bed worrying about how you could have handled things better that day.
Parenting is not a battle to be won; it’s a relationship with your child that should be understood, cherished, and guided. You’ve got this. And if you find you are needing a little help along the way, no problem. Take my hand and let’s do this together.
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Discipline Without Damage: How To Get Your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up