For most parents, summer break has begun in all is fantastic fun and chaos. We often have a love-hate relationship with summer break. We love the freedom and opportunities but hate the lack of schedule and how our kids respond to it.
Which is why this topic is incredibly pertinent for all of us right now. Think of an impending disaster situation like a forced summer break when you least expected it. Lucky you!
Your kids will most likely respond the same way they are now; lack of sleep, clinginess, bickering, and boredom. Your everyday life and how you function, entertain, and cope with stress will impact both your summer vacation and how you thrive in a disaster.
Your current lifestyle can hinder or improve your survival and recovery in a disaster. Just as summer break drastically changes your home, a disaster will create massive changes as well.
No one really likes change, especially drastic and unexpected ones. Striving to create an environment that offers the least amount of change during a disaster will give your family an advantage in coping. The fewer the changes, the less stress it creates on the family and the less they have to adjust to.
This leaves more energy and resources in handling the emergency. This principle is really where we pave the way for later recovery.
Incorporating a prepared family lifestyle has several places you can start. Here are a few:
There is said to be a story about a little boy and his reaction to a power outage. He can’t watch TV, the batteries are dead on his GameBoy and his other toys; he completely LOSES it!
At the end of his ordeal, he finally learns how to play without a battery operated toy, and naturally, that’s when the power comes back on. This book was such an eye-opener for me. Do I want to deal with a tantrum over not having TV now or when it’s simply not possible? I encourage everyone to create a home that reduces or eliminates electronic withdrawal (yes it’s a real thing).
By lowering our children’s dependence on electric devices and toys we also foster an ability for independent entertainment, self-control, and regular positive interaction. These are things that are necessary after a disaster when stress is high. A child that knows how to initiate play and handle alone time is going to make everyone’s lives much easier.
This is actually the first step to recovery after a disaster – return to your usual schedule as quickly as possible. Do you have one?
Children define their worlds through paradigms. Your schedule defines most of their world and returning to it signals stability and safety. It’s a normal day because those things they are used to are happening just as they were before. After a disaster, you will need to return to your daily schedule as soon as you can. If you have a child with special needs this is of greater importance and you are probably already aware of their reactions to a botched up schedule.
However if you have no schedule before the disaster there is nothing to fall back on, no reference. These links are a great way to start getting your time organized, or you can simply create a basic
These links are a great way to start getting your time organized, or you can simply create a basic spreadsheet in Excel. I prefer to color code mine. Be sure to include a copy in your 72-hour kit and your information binder. This will naturally need to be updated a few times a year as extracurricular activities and summer occur. Post a copy in a prominent location in your home so the entire family knows what to expect when.
Use this idea from The Get Organized Wizard to create your own schedule. It’s really for businesses, but the principles are true for families too.
Typically we think of holiday’s when someone talks about traditions. However, a tradition is something that happens regularly, whether daily or annually.
Get in the habit of having a special family tradition or activity that you do regularly. Regular family meals, bedtime stories, family prayer, cuddle time, and game nights are all great traditions that not only foster a healthy family bond but foster a healthy psychological being in everyone. Our favorite is wrestling time and movie night.
Regular family time
This is in addition to traditions. The importance of spending time together as a family is PARAMOUNT! A family who is always running around to extracurricular activities, or friends and work, rarely sees each other. What are you going to do when you suddenly get stuck together with no breaks in either a shelter or a shut-in situation?
Especially if your children fight a lot, they need to have time to practice being around each other and learning the skills needed to get along. It’s not the easy way but it will pay off, whether there is a disaster or not. Chances are you’ve already seen the effects of this in the first 2 weeks of summer break. Good news you still have 2 months to practice this. Goodie!
Self-control and independence
These are big lifestyle skills that children and parents need in disaster situations. A child who can handle entertaining themselves, stay out of trouble, and be obedient and helpful is one that will reduce stress on the family and help move towards recovery without constant supervision.
Relates Post: Prepping with Kids – Obedience Chores and Cleanliness
Self-control also encompasses self-regulation such as practicing indoor voices and behaviors, and the importance of obedience (a shouting match in the path of a tornado or in the middle of a shelter is not a good thing). Help them understand obedience is a safety issue not just a “do what I say” issue.
Answer their questions and explain your requests, while stating that they can trust that your requests are going to be for their safety and well-being.
Working is something that kids need to do in order to foster the above skills but also to aid in their own recovery. One of the steps for coping after a disaster is to work. To help provide relief for the community is very therapeutic, and this doesn’t just apply to adults.
It empowers people to take control of the situation, prove that they can change the situation and make a difference. Service is the biggest part of coping and in a disaster that service will be in the form of hard work.
Do your kids know how to handle a shovel, clean a house, and pick up their own toys? Do they have the stamina to help in these efforts? Work is a great babysitter. If they are occupied working they are not creating trouble – the last thing that either of you needs in a disaster.
Fighting among siblings is a habit, do whatever you can to eliminate it! There are tons of creative ideas to help foster harmony. We doing hugging time out and making them say 5 kind things to each other.
I’m a fan of the time out shirt as well.
Chores teach responsibility while fostering a good work ethic and ability. A clean house has less fuel for a fire, fewer hazards to step on, and a quicker, safer escape.
Practice putting things away where they belong (shoes, coats, hats, toys) so they are available when you need them. An emergency is not the same thing as being late for church. During a disaster, you can’t take the time searching the house trying to find juniors shoes. They can understand this.
Lessen Their Dependence on Material Items
Children and adults often define themselves by their belongings – “I have…” This exterior focus can be devastating in a disaster since you’ve lost yourself not just your stuff. Focusing on the intrinsic value of self can bring an understanding of who they really are.
Regularly go through toys and clothes, give unused ones away and throw away broken ones. Decrease material presents for holidays and birthdays. Lessening material dependency will, in essence, decrease the amount of perceived loss.
Those lost things will have less meaning due to their regular dismissal. It also decreases clutter/fuel/debris is a disaster. We have been working on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo as a family. Her method and principles are really changing our home and our kids have really embraced it. I highly recommend it!
Decrease or Quit Bad Habits
Caffeine, smoking, alcohol and drugs! There won’t be a Starbucks to run to, and these items will most likely sell out quickly if they’re on the shelves. Quitting now is better than when you are under high stress and have to quit cold turkey! Withdrawals while trying to take care of your family’s survival is not the best time.
Withdrawals while trying to take care of your family’s survival is not the best time. Besides, all of these things have an adverse effect on your ability to cope with trauma. Just think of all the food you can add to your food storage with the money you save!
I encourage you to take your family on a new adventure this summer implementing some of these changes. It may be uncomfortable and unpleasant as you make adjustments and establish new habits, but I promise the lifestyle will bring many positive benefits for your entire family.
The best benefit will be a strengthening of your relationships and making wonderful memories. These are the only things a disaster can’t take, and what will truly sustain you during one.
As you make the transition this summer look for other ways you can create a lifestyle that brings greater resilience and strength, they will show up. What are some of the things you did to create a better lifestyle to prepare your family?