Like so many in New York and the surrounding states, I am today without electricity, heat, water and phone courtesy of Hurricane Sandy, so I thought I should write about activities for keeping young children entertained and calm in the wake of such frustration and uncertainty.
The tactile child’s usual boisterous ways will be a source of annoyance for all when cooped up indoors. Not only is it the mess and the noise, but the constant need for hugging and physical play can wear thin during a stressful situation. Keep children busy by giving them activities and jobs to do; the more important the job the better. Counting out the candles, making sure the boxes of macaroni and cheese are organized, helping to carry water for the bathroom, folding blankets and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are all easy and helpful jobs. For fun time try pulling out the board games, a deck of cards or designing something you will build together after the storm such as a new dog house or a new self to hold their doll collection.
Visual children will find the loss of light and electronic appliances difficult to handle. They will feel frustrated by not being able to find their things and can become rather pedantic and bossy about where things “should” go. Explain to them that at times like this, things need to be specifically organized for the purpose rather than in their usual places, and have them help you rearrange the bathroom to have things regularly needed at hand. Set up the kitchen table as a go-to place for candles, torches, water, food, etc. Make sure they know that after the power is back, things will get back to normal and be tidied up, and that their great memory for where things are is a wonderful asset for the family.
Auditory children will be the ones complaining and whining. The lack of sound will need to be filled so if you don’t find a way to do so they will. This is when you will be so glad that you kept their old iPods charged or that Fisher Price tape deck that uses batteries as they will enable you to either hand them the head phones when you need a break or give them the job of finding music the family can listen to. Perhaps now is the time to start a karaoke night or have mock TV shows. One of the really useful things about auditory children during a storm or natural disaster is that they are able to be in charge of the information radio and can be relied upon to listen and relay information about the storm, flood or power outages reliably.
What may surprise you about your taste and smell children is how well they will be behaving. While everyone else is at their wits end, they will be pleasant and helpful with all sorts of solutions for things to do during the dark nights. They are family-orientated people and as long as those they care about are safe and sound, especially if with them, they will be fine. It is times like this when their strength appears and their usual sensitive demure becomes handy. They will be able to come up with creative ways to make the same meal for three days interesting, will be able to sort out the batteries for the DVD player and find the missing pieces for old board games. More importantly, they will inspire you with their good-naturedness.
Being without electricity for any length of time is difficult in our energy-reliant culture, and having it occur during a terrible natural disaster or when accompanied by loss of heat and water is even more difficult. Try to remember this is temporary and will be resolved. We are after all the lucky ones and our hearts go out to those who have lost their homes, businesses and especially to those who have lost loved ones.
Priscilla Dunstan, creator of the Dunstan Baby Language, is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Dunstan and her parenting discoveries at www.childsense.com.