Keeping Your Kids Calm During an Emergency
As you all know, my family was involved in a car accident about a week ago. We were t-boned on the interstate by a drunk driver and walked away with minor injures; some bumps and bruises and minor cuts and scrapes. We were very fortunate and I thank God for his mercy as a lot of people are not so fortunate.
Accidents happen and are pretty scary for adults, so imagine what it must be like to be a little child. I wanted to write this article on what to do if you have small kids and are involved in a wreck.
Accidents are scary and stressful, and when you have little ones with you, the scariness can escalate. Although I hope you and your family never have to go through a wreck like we did, I hope this article will help you.
Make Sure Everyone is OK and Don’t Panic
This can be hard, but you will be amazed at what you can do in a situation like this. Looking back, I am amazed at how much I did just by instinct.
Once our van stopped, I immediately accessed the situation. In a matter of seconds, I saw that we were fine as far as major injuries were concerned. I instructed my wife to roll down the windows and turn off the ignition. All this before I realized what was going on.
People were quick on the scene to help. One of the first to arrive was an Air Force Chaplain. She was quick to help us with the kids and check them out.
My kids were obviously screaming and crying. This is normal and a welcome sound. There is going to be a lot of activity. From bystanders rushing to the scene, first responders, deployed air bags and lots of debris. This is pretty frighting for a child. As a parent, I found myself putting on a brave face for my family. I knew we were OK, but that doesn’t keep you from wanting to break down and freak out a little. This is not a macho thing, but I knew my wife and kids needed to see strength and courage. (My wife, BTW was strong and courageous too…that helped me calm down.)
Get to a Safe Place
Once we realized we were OK, the next step was to get some place safe. We were on the interstate, up against the concrete barrier. We were not in the emergency lane. Cars were going very slow, but there was still a lot of traffic. Until we were clear to move the van, we made sure we stayed inside.
Talk to your Kids about the Positive Things
There is going to be a lot of confusion and loud noises, with tow trucks and sirens. There is also going to be a lot of people running around. My wife and I made sure to explain what was going on to our kids.
For instance, the first people on the scene were an Air Force Chaplain and some other soldiers. (A welcomed site.) They were all in fatigues, so I told my daughter they were soldiers and they were here to help us. I pointed out their uniforms and compared it to a super hero’s uniform. “All heroes wear uniforms”, I explained.
I did the same for the police officer and other emergency personnel. I showed my kids the police car and explained how the flashing lights were to let people know to slow down and be careful. Little ones may not understand a lot of what is happening, but they know enough…and by pointing out all the way people are helping, they will feel safe and secure.
At the Hospital
Once the police took our statements and we were cleared to leave, my in-laws and one of my wife’s co-workers, took us to the emergency room. When Ginny heard we were going to the hospital, she got scared. She was afraid she would get a shot. I reassured her that there would be no shots and that the Dr’s were going to look at all of us to make sure we were OK.
Once at the hospital, my wife and I again focused on the positive things that the medical staff were doing. When they were checking us in at triage, we explained to our kids that they wanted to know their birthdays and they were going to ask us questions and put our answers into a cool computer. (They thought that was neat.)
Once back in an exam room, it was time for them to check our vitals. I went first. As they were checking my blood pressure, I reminded Ginny that she had one of those in her doctors kit. When they took my temperature, I told my daughter that the thermometer tasted like pizza. Ginny couldn’t wait for her turn. The nurses gave the kids a coloring book and some crayons, so Ginny and I had some coloring time together.
Through it all, we kept telling our kids all the wonderful things doctors do and how they want to help us.
A few days later, we took the kids to their pediatrician for a follow up visit. Again, Ginny got scared she was going to get a shot. I explained to her that Dr. Laura heard that we were in an accident. She called me and told me she wanted to see Ginny and Sean and hear about the accident and make sure they were OK. (Even though we set the appointment.) Ginny then couldn’t wait to see Dr. Laura!
Always Remember that Kids are Tough
I was amazed at how tough my kids are. While the wife and I were hobbling around, you could never tell the kids were in an accident. Above all else, by explaining to them what was going on and focusing on the positive things that were going on, they calmed down relatively quick. (Which in turn calmed me and the wife down.)
Despite all this advice, the best thing to do is make sure your kids car seats are installed correctly and they are buckled in at all times. Also, make sure you wear your seatbelt. We were all buckled in, and I am convinced that is one of the main reasons we walked away from this accident.
Accidents are very traumatic experiences, but by doing the above, you can help your little ones (and yourself) stay calm in an otherwise chaotic situation.