I just finished assembling my son’s earthquake kit for kindergarten.  We’ve done a lot of earthquake/emergency planning at home, so this didn’t seem like a big deal.  But then I had to write him a note to include in his kit.  That’s when the reality of being separated from my children during a natural disaster really hit me.

The school sits on top of the Hayward fault – the likely cause of my writer’s block. We’ve all heard the warnings. The last five significant earthquakes on the Hayward fault have been about 140 years apart. And the last major one was…140 years ago. Knowing this, and the fact there’s a pretty good chance my son could be at school if there is a big earthquake, what’s the best way to reassure him?

I turned to the Red Cross’s Bay Area chapter and We Care Children’s Services, a local children’s mental health organization, for resources and advice.

The main point, they say, is to make sure children understand that there is a plan and that everyone’s safety is the first priority. If you do include a note in your child’s school or child care emergency supplies, it is more comforting for children to receive a handwritten letter since they might not be able to read and may feel a connection to a parent’s handwriting. You could also include a family photo.  Some things to tell your child in the note:

  • You will be kept safe and your family is also being taken care of. I will come pick you up as soon as possible. But first I need to make sure everyone is safe where I am before I come to get you.
  • Your teacher will take care you so don’t be scared if it takes a long time for us to pick you up. We are doing our best to get to you.
  • Work is being done to clean up debris and help families.

There are also several resources online to help you talk to young children about earthquakes:

“Trinka and Sam: The Day the Earth Shook” is a short story that explains earthquakes in kid-friendly language and includes a useful parents quide at the end.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has a section for parents called “What You Should Know About Earthquakes.”

FEMA has a section on their website just for kids and has produced information for child care providers called Earthquake Preparedness: What Every Child Care Provider Needs to Know.

Sesame Workshop’s Let’s Get Ready Planning Together for Emergencies tool kit has activities and other easy tools to help families prepare for emergencies together.




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