Disaster Tips For Parents With Special Needs Kids
There have been many disasters in the news lately. We are often asked how we can prepare our families for a disaster. No matter where you live in the country you can have any type of environmental disaster, any type of naturally occurring event that you have no control over.
These types of events are very stressful for families, and they can be excessively stressful on our clients who have anxiety issues and problems with unpredictability because those events are unpredictable and you can’t be aware of the kind of damage you’ll see or how your life is going to change.
1. Stay calm.
The first thing we always tell people is whatever else you can do, remain calm. Stay as calm as you can to present yourself to your child, because they’re going to react to your anxiety and it’s going to make things overwhelmingly difficult for you and your family if you can’t establish some degree of personal calm. This is also a good example for your child. They need to see you maintain calm on a regular basis because many of our kids are so anxious.
2. Stick to something predictable.
However, you can, in whatever capacity you can stick to something predictable. A crisis or a life event or a natural disaster presents itself with incredible unpredictability. We want to try to fill in whatever predictability we can with routines, schedules, etc. Of course, you can’t always do that. But as much as you can do it, it’s important to try.
3. Prepare if you can.
If you know there’s going to be a life event coming up, it’s important to have some degree of preparation. Talk about it and create some kind of social story. Use it as an opportunity to educate and communicate about the event, because that helps to reduce some of the unpredictability and anxiety. Some of our kids just don’t understand what’s going on, so if we can explain it calmly, that’s very helpful to them.
4. Engage your child.
In any event, there’s always the aftermath. In the aftermath, depending on your circumstances, return to that schedule, that predictability they crave. Our kids crave movement and regulate themselves through movement, so try to provide as much movement opportunity as you can. Engage your child. The more you engage and get down to play with them in their world, the more comfortable they’re going to be in that type of life situation that’s changed.
5. Use comfort items.
If you can recover any items that represent comfort to them, a stuffed animal, a blanket, an object, a pair of pajamas, a sweatshirt, it’s important to keep those in place because those items will help produce calming. Whatever you can do to encourage that calming, we highly recommend you do it. Focus on adding in those things that you know are comforting to your child, maybe more than you would on a regular basis. That’s okay because you have a lot of chaos going on and we want to use every advantage to bring in some degree of control.
6. Make sleep a priority.
It’s important that your kids get to sleep during these times. Figure out some way, maybe with their special blanket, that they can get sleep. If they don’t get their sleep a very vicious cycle starts.
7. Plan for picky eaters.
If you have kids who are picky eaters, make sure you keep on hand items that you can use in bulk just in case. You can even plan and have a “just in case” backpack with items that they will eat.
These are just a few things to think about when an unpredictable situation presents itself. This could be anything—even sitting on the tarmac on a plane for a few hours waiting for the plane to take off. Sometimes it’s a natural disaster, sometimes it’s a personal crisis. You never know what might happen, so it’s important to think about those kinds of crises, and to think about them right now, while you’re calm. Think about what you would do in that situation before it happens, rather than trying to figure it out while you’re in the middle of the situation.
Hopefully, this was helpful for you and got you thinking a little bit about how to plan ahead for a crisis.