Hillary Chybinski: Red Cross Month. . .How-To Talk to Your Kids About Disasters

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Red Cross Month. . .How-To Talk to Your Kids About Disasters

These days, it seems as if there is a "disaster" somewhere in the world nearly everyday.  I don't know about you - but I don't recall many from my own childhood.  I do remember not taking fire drills seriously.

The Federal Building Bombing in Oklahoma City was my personal wake-up call.  From that event on, I took fire drills and safety precautions much more seriously.  And then 9-11 happened . . .and the world changed.  I had an almost 1 year old little baby.  Suddenly all those "what if" scenarios didn't seem so outrageous.

But as he grew, and his little brother came along 6 years later. . .I wanted to shield them from the disasters of the world.  Of course I realized that shielding them completely isn't the best response.  That to grow up to be empathetic people, who watch out for the safety of themselves and others, they needed to have a clue about what could happen and how to respond.

The Red Cross says, " When helping children learn how to prepare for, respond safely during, and recover from a disaster, it is important to adapt your discussions, instructions, and practice drills to their skills and abilities. Be aware that young children can easily confuse messages such as “drop, cover, and hold on” (response during an earthquake) and “stop, drop, and roll” (response if your clothes catch on fire)."

So I try to answer their questions about things that have happened in the past.  And yes, I tell them that these types of things could happen again.  Then we talk about the things we do to prepare.  We have a fire evacuation plan. When we go to a mall or other location, we discuss what to do if we get separated or lost.  Last year, we prepared for a hurricane, and even had to go down in the basement during a tornado warning (this is so rare in Pennsylvania).  So we talk about it - if they want to.

I always follow-up when I know they have had a safety drill at school.  After a school-shooting incident several years ago in our district - these seem more important as well.

I spent 20  years as an auditor, and we all believe "it can't happen to us". . .people, businesses, organizations.  But we all know that it really can, and our best chances to make it through with as little collateral damage as possible - is to be prepared.

It's important to tell children that in a disaster there are many people who can help them. Talk about ways that an emergency manager, American Red Cross volunteer, police officer, firefighter, teacher, neighbor, doctor, or utility worker might help after a disaster.

For more ideas on preparing your family, check out the Red Cross Month series over on A Life in Balance.

How do you talk to your kids about disasters?

Red Cross Month is a time to remind everyone of the American Red Cross’ work in communities across the country and around the globe and how the organization depends on public support to help people in need. March was first proclaimed Red Cross Month in 1943 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Since then, every other president, including President Obama, has designated March as Red Cross Month.

Here's how you can help  

catch you soon -  

note - this is not a sponsored post, there are links to the American Red Cross for your own information. 


  1. You're right; it is so important to tailor the information to the kid's developmental level. I think it's important to give them some basic information which I need to do with mine, and maybe talk about the other stuff as it comes up.

    Actually, maybe my next post will be on every day emergencies and teaching your kids how to handle them.