How to calm children in a crisis

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calm children in a crisis
From the Library of Congress’ Highsmith (Carol M.) Archive

Emergency situations can be difficult for anyone to face, but it can be especially hard for a child. It’s so important to know how to calm children in a crisis.

Picture this situation:

Fifteen children under the age of 10 and about 8 adults are crowded in a bathroom as a storm rages around the building. The children heard the word “tornado” and are scared. The crying and shaking start.

  • “Are we going to die?”
  • “What about Daddy?”
  • “Where is my friend?”

The adults try to get word out to friends and family that they have taken cover, but the children need attention and assurance, too. One adult suggests saying a prayer. And then one starts singing, “The wheels on the bus …”

And we sang and sang until the noise quieted and the storm passed by. Yes, I was one of the adults in that scenario, and I quickly realized the importance of calming children in a crisis.

Setting an example

Once we adults acted calmly, the children followed suit. Adults need to have self-control over their emotions during an emergency to provide support for the children. The focus should first be on the people with you in an emergency situation, not on trying to contact others. When you are able to get in touch with someone from the outside, ask them to pass on the information for you to others so you can continue to be there for the kids.

Think it through

Whether it is a tornado drill, hurricane evacuation, or even a car accident, thinking through all the different ways to keep children calm will help you be ready if the event ever occurs.

You may have the supply checklist completed, but once you have taken cover or bugged out, what is your plan? Who will you contact and how? How will you comfort those around you? Can you keep your emotions in check for the sake of others?

Here are some ideas:

  • Remind children they are in the safest place they can be right now and you will take care of them.
  • Go over what to do when the incident is over.
  • Have some distractions ready (songs, I Spy, memorization passages, riddles, jokes, children’s books, games, coloring books and crayons).
  • Have them tell you a story.
  • Keep comfort items in your shelter area, bug out bags, and cars (blankies, stuffed animals, toys, and even candy and something to drink).
  • Give children something to do, such as hand out the coloring books and crayons.
  • Answer their questions and encourage them to talk to you.
  • Let children help stock the shelter, bug out bag, and emergency car bag and make sure they know what is there.
  • Have practice drills.

What other ideas do you have to keep children calm during an emergency situation?

3 thoughts on “How to calm children in a crisis”

  1. Amy Van Riper

    The most important part of this article, to me, is the idea that children will usually behave in the way modeled by the parent/adult. As a former military brat and now military wife and mom myself, I believe without hesitation that my positive attitude and behavior regarding frequent moves and deployments set the stage for the way my kids reacted. My mom modeled that behavior to me and my siblings as well. Almost without exception, my friends who have freaked out over moves and deployments have children who do not adjust well.

  2. Amy Van Riper

    Another suggestion for something to have as a comfort item is a light stick for each child… safe for kids, no batteries required, and “magic” to young kids. If the power is out and/or it’s night time, that little bit of light in a child’s hands can be comforting. Also, if it’s the kind that can be attached to a lanyard, it can be a “locating device” as people are moving around afterword in the dark.

  3. Light sticks are brilliant. My wife went back to teaching full time this year. I put together an emergency kit for her. Lights ticks are in that kit for the reasons you mentioned as well as many others.

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