Talking to your kids about Hurricane Irma and keeping them calm

TAMPA, Fla. - If you are nervous about Hurricane Irma, you can bet your kids are too, and it is hard for them to not notice what is going on.

"They are seeing us bring in water and seeing us in the gasoline lines so it's out there, you can't ignore it or lie to your children,” said Ellie Hirsch, a parenting expert in Tampa.

Empty store shelves and "no gas" signs on fuel pumps is worrying many adults, and Hirsch says it is also frightening the kids.

Brenna Winters says her daughter is really scared.

"She's asking questions like mommy what's a hurricane? What is going to happen? And she's been actually crying,” said Winters.

Hirsch says parents should be validating their child's emotions, instead of dismissing them - showing kids the supplies you have and talking about their fears will let them know they are safe and in good hands, “...and don't say it's going to be OK because we don't know if it's going to be OK but you can still ease their anxieties."

Hirsch says you can do that by creating a hurricane kit with younger kids - coloring a shoebox, decorating it with stickers, and filling it with toys, a flashlight and bottle of water.

"Make a tent out of sheets and create a little camping environment so that your child is not scared,” she said. “It takes their mind off everything as well as yours."

She says you can turn the storm into an educational opportunity for older kids by having them look up hurricane facts. It's too early to know if there will be mandatory evacuations, but Hirsch says you shouldn't bring it up unless you're leaving and at that point, tell them what to expect to the best of your ability.

She says some kids may get misinformation from other kids. She says you should tell your kids to come to you with questions or concerns so you can get them accurate information. 

Keep up with the latest track, evacuations and shelter information at abcactionnews.com/hurricane.

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