I happened to be at home working on my computer Wednesday afternoon, when my kids approached me with concerned faces.
They told me that there was a tornado alert for our “neck of the woods” in North Carolina. After calming their concerns with a few “don’t worry, it will be fine” statements, we looked on the internet. Lo and behold, the alert was specifically for our local area, literally within a 25 miles radius.
So I became a bit more concerned…
I took a few seconds to confirm that the threat was legitimate, and then the family started to prepare for the unlikely, but dangerous chance that the tornado may hit us.
I told the kids that although I did not expect a tornado to hit us, it was wise to take action to prepare.
Several minutes later, I looked over at my 10 year old’s fearful face when he recognized that the possibility of a tornado actually existed.
I told him, “Fear can’t help us now, but calm preparation may.”
He noticed the older two kids, his parents and his grandparents were all thinking and preparing, and he immediately “got it” and joined in.
We decided that the safest place of refuge was in the dirty crawlspace under the brick house. Now in North Carolina, you may end up having a bit of company from your local critters (think ssss…snake) in a dark crawl space, so of course, one of the kids mentioned this concern.
I pointed out that in the unlikely event that a violent twister was barreling toward our farm, they would be more than happy to cozy up with their new pal under the house. All choices in life are relative, and at that point, it would be an easy decision. Crawl under the house…
We quickly brainstormed together, and came up with some important items to take with us to our safe place: water, a bit of food, blankets, communication (phones/radio), flashlights, shovel and a first-aid kit.
We called our neighbors to ensure that they were also aware of the threat, and then we stood on the front porch and listened for any sounds or signs of an approaching tornado.
While the family waited out the storm, we had a good conversation. It was an excellent opportunity to teach the kids about the importance of using the critical moments available to prepare, instead of panic.
Young people need to observe their guardians calmly and methodically thinking through the potential crisis, instead of seeing panic, disorganization and fear. This was one of the most important lessons of my childhood, when I watched my parents calmly deal with the complete loss of our material possessions in a fire. “Thoughts From The Farm, 3/13/17”
Thankfully, the tornado never developed in our area yesterday, but the episode was a tremendous learning experience for the kids, and it helped the adults think through future preparations. We noticed that the more the kids got involved with taking action, even if it was not guaranteed to work, the less they feared the possible tornado.
It reminded me of the journalist Ted Koppel’s recollection of his youth living in London during the Nazi Luftwaffe’s relentless bombing campaign of the city. He said that every child knew exactly what to do when the air raid sirens went off, and that was to get under a desk or table, and cover your head.
It didn’t matter that this simple action would not actually guarantee protection from the direct hit of a Luftwaffe bomb. Of course it would not.
The point was that teaching citizens the actions to take in the event of an emergency, really empowered them and created a coping mechanism to manage the contagious fear associated with feeling powerless.
When I think of the horrific attack on innocent Arianna Grande fans this past weekend in Manchester, England, it makes me wonder if we are teaching young people the correct tools to deal with this senseless violence.
These types of terrorist/mass shooting crimes are difficult to stop, because the police/intelligence agencies have to be correct 100% of the time. Of course, the perpetrators only need to succeed once, and can use rudimentary weapons (truck/car), and act as lone wolves who are difficult to identify beforehand.
The answer, instead of consoling them with the “don’t worry, it won’t happen to you” mentality, may be to simply acknowledge the risk, and teach basic actions that may improve odds of survivability. (Something like “Run, Hide, Fight”).
Have we reached the point where it is far better to teach kids the tactics to improve their chances against natural and man-made risk, instead of tactics to ignore the risk?
I think so…