5 Things to keep in mind when teaching your child about emergencies
How should we teach our kids how to respond in case of an emergency?
In January 2015, a 4-year-old girl saved her pregnant mom’s life by calling 911 after her mom had a seizure. In April of the same year, a 5-year-old boy called 911 after his mother went into diabetic shock, saving her life as well. Emergency preparedness for kids is hence very important for kids.
Parents try to shield their kids from dangerous situations, but some are unavoidable, like natural disasters and medical emergencies. That’s why it’s imperative that we teach our children how to deal with emergencies.
Emergency preparedness for kids
Psychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez spoke to Fatherly about what we should teach our kids about responding to emergencies. Here’s some of what she said.
1. Teach your child what an emergency is
First of all, your child might not know what an emergency actually entails. Teach your child about natural disasters like earthquakes, typhoons, landslides, and so forth, and what they should do in case they happen. Teach your child about what they should do in a fire, and what they should do if an emergency happens at school.
“Your child could literally be in an emergency and not realize it,” Dr. Hafeez told Fatherly, speaking from experience. “When I was 8 years old, my house caught fire. And I was in my room reading a book. I had no idea what was happening.”
Not everything distressing is an emergency
You should also teach your child that not everything distressing is an emergency. Not knowing the answers to your math homework is not an emergency, for example. Teach them the difference between a normal, distressing situation and an actual emergency. Give them different scenarios that are considered emergencies, but keep in mind that you’re trying to teach them, not scare them.
2. Teach them how to dial for emergency services
You should teach your child to memorize emergency numbers and neighbors they can turn to in case they need help. Practicing with a toy phone, teach them about the information they’ll need to provide:
- Your address
- The kind of emergency
- Who needs help
- Whether or not that person is conscious or breathing
KidsHealth recommends explaining to your child that though it’s normal to be scared during an emergency, it’s important to stay calm and speak clearly. Emphasize that they shouldn’t hang up until the person on the other end says so, as they could miss important instructions or information.
3. Teach them to take emergency hotlines seriously
According to KidsHealth, in some American cities, it is estimated that up to 75% of the calls made to 911 are non-emergency. Some of these are pranks, some of these are accidental calls, and some of them just don’t know that 911 is for actual emergencies.
It’s important that we tell our children that whenever emergency hotlines receive an unnecessary call, someone who actually needs a response might be left waiting. It could mean life or death for some.
Role-playing or going through different possible emergency situations with your child can help alleviate their anxiety, according to GetPrepared.ca. Think of different scenarios suitable for your child’s age, and practice several times a year. Make sure to include scenarios at school and other places aside from home.
This helps give them a concrete idea of what to do in case of an emergency instead of vague instructions like “go to a safe place.” Adding to the emergency preparedness for kids.
5. Don’t scare them
Be careful that you don’t freak your children out and overdo it. “You have to prepare your kids for emergencies, but there are some parents who are so anxious and neurotic that without meaning to, they pass that onto their kids,” said Dr. Hafeez. “If you’re constantly making them hyper-vigilant, they don’t learn what they’ll need in a real emergency to navigate it themselves.”