I thought when I left Florida 11 years ago, I was leaving behind our annual hurricane watches and preparations. I was so wrong. Here we are again talking about and preparing for another possible disaster in New England and all along the eastern coast.
The news has been all over this one. They are even calling it Frankenstorm! A monster storm! I am certain that the lack of preparedness last year in New England for Irene and last October’s horrible snowstorm that led to such long-term power outages is driving this force.
Preparation is a good thing. However, the constant coverage on television, radio, newspapers and websites is enough to cause even higher levels of stress about the event. Kids are pretty concrete. So, their biggest concern may be if Trick or Treating might be cancelled–again? Kids also are affected by the fear that can be generated by exposure to such scary news.
The American Psychological Association has a lot of great information to help people prepare for major storms. We know that the anticipation of the arrival of a large-scale storm can be scary. And our weathermen are reminding us that this is a monster storm…a new phenomenon, a hurricane embedded in the middle of a Nor’easter. Yikes!
So how can we prepare and not be overwhelmed?
- Have a plan and implement it. All of us do better when we have a safety plan. Make sure you have plenty of supplies and know how to use your generator, if you have one.
- Get the facts. Watch the news, but limit the times you tune in. The constant chatter about what could happen really sets our bodies on edge and increases anxiety. When we are very anxious, our bodies release neurotransmitters including norepinephrine and cortisol. Because our minds and bodies are so connected, having too many of these stress hormones can make us physically sick.
- Make connections. Talk to your friends, neighbors and loved ones and discuss what you will do if the storm hits and how you can help each other. We have a generator to run the house (thank you to my wonderful husband who knew I would need heat and hot water when we moved here from Florida!). So, during the last two major power outages, we had family and friends move in. We shared in the cooking and sat around a table each evening and clearly made the best of things.
- Talk to your kids. Find out what they are most worried about. Share your safety plan and go over it with them. Let them add a few things that would make them feel better. This can be as simple as having a special flashlight in their room or making a list of fun things they can do without power. You can always toast marshmallows with a Bic Grill lighter. Help them understand that even if we are scared, we can deal with our feelings and we will get through this.
- Manage your own anxiety. Our kids are so sensitive to our moods. If you demonstrate that things will be OK, and that you are prepared to handle the storm, they are far more likely to be calm.
- Maintain proper nutrition. We feel better when we eat well. We don’t have to eat just cookies and chips during power outages, although a few won’t hurt. My kids have memories to this date of going into the basement in Michigan during tornadoes and having frozen girl scout cookies or pastries from our freezer in the basement. Bags of dried fruit, and many fruits and vegetables can be unrefrigerated for a couple of days.
Listen to the officials and be prepared. If you live in an area where coastal flooding is expected, be prepared to evacuate. You risk the lives of your family and emergency responders if you stay. Even if you don’t live by the shore, know what you need to take with you in case evacuation is necessary because of power issues. And don’t forget to top off your cars with gas! We all remember how difficult it was to find gas last year after the October storm.
- Stay positive and hopeful. Think about how resilient you really are. Remember and talk about how you survived last year’s storms and other tough situations. Note things that went well and make changes, where you can, to make things better this time around.
This could be a big storm. But, state, federal, local officials and many non-governmental disaster services agencies are tracking and preparing for the hurricane.