Quake in the ‘Burbs

 Did you feel it?  The rumbling of the earth, the shaking of your bed as it jostled you awake around 4am?   We were expecting a blizzard, but what we got was an earthquake. 

After the brief 3-5 second earth rumbling, I lay in bed thinking, “Could this have really been an earthquake?  In Northern Illinois?  Will it happen again?  What should we do?   What about the kids?” 

Well, it was an earthquake–a small one–the authorities were first calling it a 4.3 on the Richter Scale but later said it was just a 3.8. 

I was curious enough to know a little bit more about the Richter Scale and so I looked it up on Wikipedia.com.  The scale ranges from “less than 2 (happens all the time and is barely felt)” to “10+. (epic and never recorded)”  So, what exactly does a 4.3 mean?  The magnitude actually falls between the range of 4 and 4.9 and is defined as, ” a light earthquake…noticeable shaking of small household items.”  This range of earthquakes happens about 6,200 times a year.  Hummm…that seems sort of rare.  Here?  In Northern Illinois?  We’re not even on a fault line, are we?

But when the news folks down-graded the quake to a 3.8, that changed things.  Now it’s just called a “minor” earthquake and happens about 49,000 times a year.  It doesn’t seem quite so novel now.  

Don’t get me wrong:  I don’t want a major earthquake.  The folks in Haiti have experienced enough heartache and ruin from their earthquake just last month.  I don’t wish that for us.  I don’t wish that for anyone. 

But it did get me thinking:  What do we do about our kids?  What about other natural disaters?

What’s a Parent to do?

In the case of our recent minor earth rumble–nothing.  Unless of course your child was awakened by the experience and has questions/concerns about it.  

  • Just the facts, m’am.  Keep it to the point and do your best not to elaborate things that could potentially scare your child. 
  • Share your own feelings, too.  “I was a little scared, too.  I had no  idea what was happening.  Everything is o.k. now.”
  • You don’t have to know it all.  Let your child know that you don’t have all of the answers, but be willing to look for them.   Find a book about earthquakes geared toward kids at the library.
  • Use an opportunity like this to educate your child on natural disasters.   

For older kids, (say grades 3 and up):

  • Watch the news with them.  Turn off or mute the TV during commercial breaks to gather more infomation and engage in some dialog about the stories presented  in the previous news segment. 
  • Explore possible answers and brainstorm on some solutions.  Your child may have some very good ideas. 
  • Keep a globe or world atlas handy when the TV news is on.  It’s neat to show your kids exactly where in the world the event is occuring. 

So what do we do in the case of an earthquake?!

The best thing one can do is DROP–COVER–HOLD ON.  Get down low to the ground, get under something strong and substantial–a desk, a strong doorwy, and hold on to something until the shaking stops.  It’s the deadlist of all natural disasters. 

For a Fire: STOP–DROP–ROLL.  Make sure everyone knows where the exits are located and give reminders not to use an elevator.e

For a Flood: Stay away.  Now is not the time to go swimming.  The flow of the water can be dangerous and much more rapid than it appears, plus the water could be contamimated. 

For a Tornado:  Get inside shelter immediately.  You want a place with no glass or windows like a basement or bathroom. 

And finally, it never hurts to start talking about an emergency prepardness plan of action.  If your kids are young (say under 2), have this talk with your spouse or significant other so that when something does happen, you two are on the same page.  Preschool-aged kids will probably like problem solving and helping you come up with a plan if you “play dumb” and let them give you some ideas.  You can always elaborate on what they said, making it appear like their suggestion was their idea entirely. 

It might even be a fun way to create an emergency supply kit with your kids.  Just for fun, get them thinking and talking about they use and need on a daily basis.  Soap.  Toothbrush.  Water.  Food.  Start identifying items they need and use from the morning and work your way to bedtime.  Discuss what is really necessary vs. “nice to have.”  Consider it a little exercise in be being humble. 

But the bottom line here is not to get to worked up about these things.  Present it calmly and matter-of-fact.  Let your kids ask the questions and talk about their feelings.  Afterall, as parents we’ve got our own little earthquakes to deal with. 

Which reminds me…want some fun, mindless reading?  Then look for “Little Earthquakes” by Jennifer Weiner (2004).  It’s all about new moms and their struggles with their new identity.  It’s laugh-out-loud hilarousness is something we can all relate to.

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