Tuesday, August 12, 2014

School Preparedness Packs

Image and words by Kathryn

When I was in the third grade I remember lining up on the field of Emerson Elementary with the entire school because there was a bomb threat.  I remember trying to picture what a bomb actually looked like and wishing I could just walk home.  That was 24 years ago.  Nine and 10 years ago when I taught school at Lincoln Elementary we had a few lock downs as well.  One of my first graders had to use the bathroom.  When I showed him the bucket in the closet that we had for bathroom emergencies, he could suddenly hold it longer.  Thankfully the lock down did not last long and I got that boy to the bathroom ASAP.

We live in a incredible time.  There are many fantastic advances that make living wonderful.  There are many loving and outstanding people in our lives.  I love life! 

But, danger and nightmarish moments are still part of this world too.

I've been the nervous student.  I've been the teacher keeping 25 children calm while huddled around my desk in a dark room.  And now I'm the mom.  And although we don't tell our children many details (due to their young age) about school violence or natural disasters, they still hear bits and pieces about lock downs and tornadoes in other states and new safety protocols...and sometimes their minds get a tad nervous.  "Will that happen to us mom?"

So I came up with a plan to empower my kiddos.  Last year I made them Preparedness Packs.

Now statistically speaking, I'm 99% sure my children will never actually need to use their preparedness pack.  Thankfully these packs sat, unused, in their backpacks all of last year.  And honestly, in a dangerous situation, a preparedness pack might not be a whole lot of help, but what they did do was make my children feel more calm, more safe, more loved, more ready for when blips of scary talk crossed their worry radar.  And that was the whole point!!  They LOVED having a preparedness pack in their backpack and even my niece requested that I make one for her this year.  

Preparedness Pack Ingredients:

- one small pencil or make-up pouch.  (I got these ones at Target Dollar Spot last year.)

- Tick-Tacks (something sweet to calm and can easily be shared with a scared friend)

- granola bars (something more substantial to curb hunger)

- flashlight (light is a sure fire way to bring comfort)

- band aids (every kid likes to play nurse)

- emergency blanket (cause it sounded cool)

- love note (to remind them of physical ways they can calm themselves)

- pictures to focus on when scared (we are religious so I chose a picture of Jesus.  This year I also plan to include a picture of our family)

I really feel that the love note is the most important part of the pack.  It eased my mind to know that my girls carried a love note from me every day and it was a good reminder to them of physical ways that will help them to stay calm in stressful situations.  My love note said this:
I love you!  You may be in a place where mom can't get to you right now.  Mom and dad will come soon.  We will always take care of you and keep you safe.  We want you to:
1 - Stay calm.  Everything will be okay.
2 - Pray!
3 - Stay with your sister if she is there.
4 - Help others.  Sing songs if it helps.  
You are brave and strong.  We love you forever!
Mom and Dad
(Obviously prayer is a big part of our religious lives, but even if you aren't religious, meditating has been proven to help reduce stress.)   

The night I gave my girls the packs I talked to them about the contents.  I read them my love note and talked about things they could do if they felt they were in danger.  I also instructed them that they are brave and ready so they could help other kids in their class. Then we put the packs in the front zipper part of their backpacks and I told them to simply not touch the packs unless it was an emergency.  I think a few band aids were used throughout the year and one daughter snuck a few Tick-Tacks, but other than that, on the last day of school my girls got to finally open the packs and eat their Tick-Tacks and granola bars.  We put the rest aside to simply put back in the pack for the next year.
Now we are a week into school and my girls want to know when I am going to have their preparedness packs ready again!  Better go buy some more granola bars.  

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