Here in South Florida, we narrowly missed some major devastation from Hurricane Matthew. While the winds were blowing outside, inside our home I was trying to keep from losing my cool. After getting ready for the storm, purchasing batteries, and shuddering up, there was only one thing left to do and that was wait.
Mistake #1: Letting kids sit inactive for too long.
If you have ever been around a 6-year-old waiting is the one thing they are absolutely incapable of doing. So to ask my son to sit in a windowless house for more than 24-hours was enough to drive any parent running onto the eye of a storm. He is all boy, and all energy. During storm prep it was all over the news that we would be losing power in the evening so I did something I rarely do. I let them watch hours of uninterrupted TV. Yes… I know I am a bad mom, but I needed to help my husband shutter and bring in outdoor items so he could feel confidant leaving us during the storm. My intentions were for the best so as not have my children under foot while we carried large planters and heavy hurricane panels. However, this turned into mistake number one.
Kids can’t sit and wait for long
The long hours of inactivity set me up for a long night of pent up energy with no place to go. The tropical storm force winds were set to arrive about 3 pm. Once it dawned on me that I left two young children in front of the TV all day, I attempted to right this by going for a walk about 1 pm.
This, however, was too little too late. Any gust of wind were scary for my son and want to return home. (This should have clued me in on mistake #2) The result was a completely overwhelming outpour of nervous energy with nowhere to go once we settled in our home for the storm. Most mothers experience this when children are stuck inside during a snowstorm or a long rainy day. But couple that with a child’s fear and we had the makings of a hurricane indoors. Enter mistake number two.
Mistake #2: Not anticipating and dealing with my children’s fears about the storm
I will admit I was so busy trying to prep, plan and keep my children and belongings safe that I never truly addressed my children’s fears. Although I made an attempt to explain what was going on, I did not take the proper care and time to anticipate how they might have felt. My daughter, who is 9, understood but I don’t think my son had enough reassurance. Sometimes I forget that he is still little and might not comprehend things in the same way as my daughter. When he began to act out it finally dawned on me that he was doing it out of fear.
Kids feed off your fears
My son is usually high energy but overall he behaves well. Being trapped in the house, with no where to go and full of nervous energy and fear is an environment for bad behavior. That is exactly what I got. Around every turn, every request and every activity my son got into trouble. Whether it was fighting with his sister, using up hurricane resources without reason or over-flowing the toilet ( yes that was a nightmare) he was his own force of nature.
Looking back on the evening, I can see clearly he did not truly understand what was happening. He didn’t get why we were stuck in the house and what I need him to do. He was afraid because his Dad had to go out in the storm and we were all pretty worried. Kids are intuitive. They can tell when things are wrong even if they don’t know why. He needed more time and patients to understand they situation then I had given him. What he needed most was reassurance that he and his family would be all right.
Matter of fact, I involved him in very little of the prep and he really had nothing to do. So not only was he afraid, full of pent up energy, he was also very, very board…(as he told me repeatedly.) And there we have mistake number 3.
Mistake #3: Not including my children in the prep process. Not planning activates to do once inside.
I will cut myself a break on this one since I was worried about so many things, like the power going out, not having enough water etc.. It never occurred to me to enlist the help of a 6-year-old. However, if I though to include him more then he would have been less afraid, and less board. It was going to be a long night of waiting. So instead of hoping he would quietly play in his room, I should have given him projects and activities to occupy him.
It would have gone a long way to helping prevent some of the evenings mishaps. Maybe it would have prevented the fights that added stress during an already stressful time. He could have gotten the bottled waters out of the plastic cases. I could have set him up with the project of arranging our sleeping area. Also, I could have brought him outside and had him help me carry small items into the garage. Instead I gave him nothing to do for fear of scaring him. I left him in the dark, made him feel helpless and left him out of contributing to his family.
Consumed with prepping and dealing with my own fears and anxiety about the approaching storm, I thought I was doing what is best for my family. Now I see that if I had let my kids in on what I was seeing, doing and feeling. The process might have empowered them to feel in control of their own fears and anxiety.
What I learned
In trying to protect them it is easy to forget that kids are resilient. They can comprehend and handle much more then we let them. By trying to shield them and control how they dealt with this situation I did more harm then good. During times of stress, fear or change they need us to guide them. To help them find their own way to process these emotions. What I am learning from this is they are not in need of control, manipulation or to be left in the dark. They need our reassurance, patients, and most of all guidance. Hopefully, if you are even stuck inside with your children for a long time, you can learn from my mistakes and avoid a flooded bathroom.