Emergency preparedness is a valuable life skill, and one worth teaching our kids. I’m grateful to Heidi at Work and Play, Day by Day for this final installment in our screen-free summer life skills bingo series.
We live in a quiet small town. Kids in the court ride their bikes from end to end all summer long. They go to the (guarded) pool without a grown-up long before they can drive a car. The librarians know the kids by name so well they don’t bother to bring library cards. People pass things along via friends and neighbors as a normal rule of life. “Hey are you gonna see so and so this week? Can you bring them this?”
While small town living has a few downfalls, by and large ours is a trusting place to raise kids. The kind of place that kids really can ask just about anyone for help if they need it. I worry about a lot of things as a mom, but their safety within our community isn’t one of them.
In such a safe place, it is natural that kids also stay home alone and/or babysit sooner than they might in other towns. Our community education has classes students as young as seven or eight can enroll in. While I had always looked at the class, I never enrolled my own kids. Our home alone (and out in the community alone) rule was simple:
Stay together, watch out for each other, and don’t be afraid to find a grown up to ask for help if you need to.
Then one night my perfectly healthy daughter (age 4) woke up out a dead sleep, seizing. It was probably the most terrifying moment of my fourteen year parenting career. In the middle of her seizure, the baby woke up crying, the dog was crazy….I’m trying to call 911 and talk to the operator.
It could have been chaos, but it wasn’t.
Without being told, my second son (11) calmly took the baby, made him a bottle and rocked him back to sleep. My oldest son (13) put the dog away in his room, turned on the porch light, and unlocked the front door. My husband sat with my daughter so that I could communicate with emergency personnel. Blessedly the 6 and 8 year old slept through the whole thing.
It could have been chaos, but it wasn’t.
Only it wasn’t because we had prepared our children for such an event, but because we were lucky. After our daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy, I knew that we needed to be more intentional about how we discussed handling emergencies in our house, particularly when an adult wasn’t around.
Around the same time, our homeschooling co-op arranged a basic CPR class and ambulance tour, which I attended with all of my older children. We created seizure specific decision making trees to help everyone know what to do when, who to call, and when to call. We laminated detailed emergency information sheets that our kids could literally hand to EMS with all of our daughter’s pertinent information (such as medications, preferred hospital, specialist providers, and even her medical record number). We reviewed how to dial 911 on every device in our house.
Thankfully, my children have not yet needed to make use of this preparation but the information has increased their confidence and allowed greater freedom for my daughter. I worry a lot about how this condition affects normal activities for my daughter, but having our family members trained in how to respond properly in an emergency lightens the load on how safe she will be if something happens when my husband or I are not available.
Not every family has a child wish specific medical needs, but here are some emergency basics for every family:
-Teach your child how (and why!) to dial 911 on all phones in your home. Not all phones are the same, so make sure they know how to use what is available to them.
-Discuss the concept of a safe adult. In addition to emergency workers, people who work at stores or other parents with children are safer options while in the community.
-Emphasize the importance of following all of the directions of adults, as immediately and exactly as possible during an emergency situation.
-Keep posted information such as emergency contacts. Include your home phone number(s) and address. (In an emergency, memorizing may not be enough, because adrenaline surges can make accessing knowledge difficult even for adults.)
-Consider a basic first aid or babysitting course (In absence of a course, Simple Family Preparedness has a thorough post covering essential child first aid skills.)
Talking about emergencies can be scary for children and overwhelming for adults. I’ve come to realize that being prepared for emergencies is one part skills and one part confidence. Our luck, wasn’t as much luck as it was my kids already had confidence that they could be helpful and contribute to improving the situation that night. Addressing any worries your child has and adding a few key skills to their knowledge base will help build their confidence and calm at the moment they need it most.
Heidi is the teacher-mom of seven living children, three with special medical needs. She is also the author of Blessed is the Fruit of Thy Womb: Rosary Reflections for Miscarriage, Stillbirth, & Infant Loss and a regular contributor at Peanut Butter & Grace. She blogs about Montessori homeschooling, family life, and whatever else suits her fancy at Work and Play, Day by Day. You can follow their family adventures on both Instagram and Facebook!