Wednesday, May 14, 2014

COMFORT: Preparing for Tornadoes

Oklahoma children are afraid of tornadoes.  They should be.  In 2013 Oklahoma had 82 tornadoes across the state.  If you have never experienced a tornado it is difficult to imagine the quiet calm before the storm-the green sky-the sudden wind. The helpless feeling that comes with the realization that once you seek shelter there is nothing you can do but wait. 

An EF5 tornado can have winds up to 300 mph and cause damage spanning more than 2 miles. Healthy fear helps us to pay attention and get to safety.  Too much fear will make every rain cloud a disaster and disrupt living.   As we begin tornado season here in the Midwest parents need to help children manage their fear through knowledge, safety, comfort, and reassurance. 

Oklahoma parents owe a big thank you to Darleen Bailey Beard for finding the words to describe the before, during, and after of a tornado in her book Twister, beautifully illustrated by Nancy Carpenter.  I use Twister in my practice to help anxious children prepare for Oklahoma weather.  Last year I asked a child to summarize what she was learning from counseling “It is up to the grown-ups to help you know when to get to safety; it is up to kids to follow directions and just be kids until it is over.” Well said.
h/t mari farthing 

Author Darleen Bailey Beard was an encouraging speaker at the recent Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.  Conference.  Darleen shared with us that she received a thank you letter from a teacher last year.  The teacher was from Briarwood Elementary in Moore, Oklahoma.   The teacher wrote that on May 20, 2013 she was huddled in her classroom with her students during the deadly EF5 tornado that destroyed much of the town. As the teacher considered how best to reassure the children during the storm she remembered her copy of Twister.  She read to her class and they made shadow puppets on the wall just like the children in the book.  The Weather Channel will be doing a feature (May 19th tentative air time 8pm) which will include this teacher’s story.  Watch for the listing I am sure it will be educational and inspiring.  A word to the wise: I suggest that parents preview the show rather than watching with children. 

If you live in the Midwest- learn the location of available shelters and educate yourself so you are know how and when to direct your family to safety.  And remember to bring your copy of Twister- it will help with the wait.