From Bea Wray

With all the uncertainty, risk, and news about Hurricane Florence, my colleagues suggested that I write a blog post about talking to children regarding a storm. The suggestion was that it would include great stuff like taking precautions, minimizing risks, reducing hysteria and anxiety. My colleagues know I am a mom so they thought I might be the logical source. Perhaps they forgot that the people who live in my house are teenagers. Talking with teens and hoping it goes like most conversations with young children to me feels a like a tackle football game on a tennis court.

I decided to leave the subject to the experts. Who could be more experienced and well versed than the South Florida Sun-Sentinel .

Scholastic offers specific books

And, for extra thoughtful parenting:  Hurricane Facts for Kids.

Great practical information, specifically for South Carolina, can be found here.

Many experts advise making a plan and discussing it with each family member.  Resources include:

Communications Plans for Kids (FEMA)
Wallet size Communications Plan (FEMA)

And Save the Children has created this video resource to help you prepare (video is also below).

My colleague Scott Carlberg’s great insights here:

Utility Lineworkers
Safety Precautions

Nevertheless, I did have a few words of precaution with my teenagers. That conversation was more of a failed stand-up comedy routine than any transfer of knowledge. Jon Krakauer is the famed author of Into the Wild, a fascinating tale of Chris McCandless’ journey through Alaska and eventual death in an abandoned school bus. I am a long time fan of Krakauer and especially interested in this story as McCandless and I were both graduates of Emory University in 1990. What is most memorable to me about this best seller book and later blockbuster film is what Krakauer said during a National Public Radio interview. He was discussing the risk-taking psyche of young adults and explained that if you ask a 20-year-old whether they want to take a risk with a 3% chance of death, most will say “Sure, sounds like fun!” as they calculate the odds of surviving are with them. However when you present the same situation to a group of 40-year-olds, they (logically) will say “No way! Are you crazy?” because they realize that 3% is a huge number. Krakauer elaborated to describe how 20-year-olds see themselves as invincible. If that’s true for 20-year-olds imagine how true it is for teenagers with the new found realization that mom’s ability to help with math stopped in about the 8th grade.

So, back to talking about teenagers regarding the risks in a hurricane and likelihood of downed electrical lines:

“Hey kids, I want to talk to you about the storm and some precautions we should take.”
“Ah, Mom, you are always worrying too much,” said with an eye roll.
The question “Do you know that only 6 inches of rushing water can knock you off your feet?” was met with laughter and a follow up question,
“Hey, can we go surfing?” Now, I am the one rolling my eyes.

I instructed them that after the storm they are not to go near downed trees and certainly not to touch a powerline. I told them to stay away from standing water as an electrical current could be running through it. Each pause was met with the same refrain, “We are not stupid Mom….Can we go surfing?” There was laughter and love and but not an abundance of respect. I am not proud to admit that I broke and at one point blurted out, “Listen now or die later!” And I threatened to break the surfboards.

So, I hope you are safe and dry. I hope you are taking the storm seriously. If you have young children I hope you will refer to some of the awesome resources above. And if you have teens, God bless you.