How to Talk to Your Kids About a Hurricane

hurricaneI live a busy life. I work for First Coast News. My job changes every day. I report, I anchor, I do traffic, and I’m a member of our weather team. I get up at 2:15 in the morning and work until the early afternoon. News is an industry that has no days off. I have missed Christmas mornings, birthdays, Thanksgivings, you name it. But somehow, I have found a man who accepts that and deals with it, even sending in news tips when he sees something that might be newsworthy. That wonderful man has a phenomenal 7-year-old boy from a previous marriage. A child that I now consider my own. He’s inquisitive, as any 7-year-old is, and I’m a reporter. Needless to say, there are a lot of questions asked in our house.

As fun as my job is, my favorite part of the day comes when I get to pick up that joyful child from school. We play a game called High, Low, High. Tell me about a good part of your day, a not-so-good part, and another good part. Our conversation Tuesday, though, was weather-focused. We talked about the impending Hurricane Irma. And surprise, surprise, he had a lot of questions. But most of his questions surprised me, and I’m not exactly sure why.

The first major weather event in my life that I can remember happened in 1995. I lived in the suburbs of Chicago and it was winter. That meant snow and lots of it. I remember staring out of the classroom window just watching the snow fall. For my stepson, Hurricane Matthew was that event. The one that he compares other storms to.

During Hurricane Matthew, I sent him and his dad up to Atlanta to evacuate. It was one less thing all of us had to worry about. They made a vacation of it. So, he wasn’t even here to experience it. He learned about it in school, through videos on the news, and things his mom, stepdad, and I told him about it.

hurricaneSo how do you talk to your kids about an impending storm? Especially one that’s still a week away? A storm that could hit us, or could miss us. Where is that line of telling them too much and not telling them anything? I believe that depends on your parenting style. But we have chosen to be informative. Answering any questions he has to the best that we can, not hiding or sugarcoating the science of it. Some of his questions were quite entertaining (and really gives you a look into the mind of a 7-year-old):

His first question… is this storm going to be as big as Matthew? Yes, no, and maybe. Hurricane Irma is the most powerful storm in the Atlantic Basin ever recorded. At its strongest, winds are 185 miles per hour sustained with gusts of over 200. It’s the size of the state of Ohio. As of now, our impacts won’t be as big here as they were with Matthew. But, there is still time for it to turn.

He followed it up with… What was the first hurricane? This is something I had to look up. Apparently, Christopher Columbus recorded sailing into a tropical storm. But in 1953, the National Hurricane Center started to name storms with all female names. Tropical Storm Alice was the first named storm, Barbara was the first named Hurricane.

Will it blow over Navy boats? The Navy has already decided to send most of its ships out to sea. They do this for several reasons. One, it ensures the safety of the boats and the sailors on them. Two, it allows the ships to be ready in case they need to respond anywhere.  

Will there be a tsunami? No, there won’t. Tsunamis are caused by earthquakes. What there will be is a storm surge. That’s just water being pushed by the storm ahead of it. Think about pushing your hand in a bathtub. That water has to go somewhere. There will also be bigger waves than normal. That’s because of the rough waters.

What happens to the animals? Some animals can feel a change in pressure. Sharks, for example, will feel that change and leave the area. Animals that live in trees generally hide in the trees and do pretty well.

I did a little digging and found an article from the Sun Sentinal. They have some great tips on how to talk to your kids.

They say to explain to them what a hurricane is. In simple terms, it’s a giant windstorm with lots of rain. They can be dangerous but also survivable with preparation.

Talk to your kids about your preparations and safety procedures. The more they know, the more confident they’ll be, and the less worried and stressed they’ll be. But remember, keep it simple.

Younger children may have trouble understanding hurricanes. Instead, tell them about what they could see. They should know that a hurricane can destroy homes. The power might go out. Trees might be knocked down.

Allow your kids to be a part of the preparations. Have them help with your emergency kit. Tell them to pack some snacks that they would want or a favorite toy to bring if you decide to evacuate.

We made a hurricane tracker on his wall. He can update it every day with the category and location. It also allows him to watch the storm as it gets closer to us!

Lastly, I advise you all to stay tuned to local media. Educate yourself. Don’t believe everything you see or hear or read on social media.

About the Author

Lindsey Boetsch of First Coast News is excited to be living and working in the Sunshine State. She joined the First Coast News team as a multimedia journalist April Fool’s Day 2013… No joke. Since then she has taken on many roles including weather anchor, reporter, and fill-in anchor. She comes from KHQA in Quincy, Illinois. She started there a week after graduating college as a producer, reporter, and weather anchor. She also produced and anchored the morning show for two years. She covered one of the worst winter storms on record in Quincy, the Blizzard of 2011. The city saw 22 inches of snow in two days. She also traveled to Joplin, Missouri three months after the deadly tornado hit the town. Lindsey grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Illinois State University. She is happy to trade her snow boots for a beach umbrella. She loves exploring all the First Coast has to offer, including all of the awesome local restaurants. In her spare time, she loves exploring all the First Coast has to offer, including all of the awesome local restaurants. She is trying to get better in the kitchen and is always looking for easy (dairy-free) recipes.


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