Culturing Creativity

Image source: Lynn DeVries, Learning Child Educator

In a world that is filled with devices and such to prevent boredom and children spending more and more time inside looking at a screen rather than outside playing, children have started to lose time for creativity. The imagination is such a wonderful thing when it is used, and as parents, it is our job to push our children to expand their imagination. With that, here are a few easy ways to culture creativity.

Painting Station

Now, I realize giving a young child paint is not always the most appealing idea, but this can either be done outside where you don’t have to worry much about the mess, or get paint that is easily cleanable. Having a blank paper sheet forces them to paint whatever comes to mind and it can help them express themselves though art. You can even grab a sheet for yourself and paint with your child!

Sidewalk Chalk

Another great way to use art for your children to show their creativity is sidewalk chalk. It gets them outside which opens doors to so much creativity. Like painting, they can use the chalk to portray what they are feeling, thinking, or dreaming about. Not to mention, it easily comes off with water and that’s good news for us!

Nature Walk

A nature walk is exactly what it sounds like: taking a walk in nature. Strolling through your neighborhood or even just sitting in your lawn serves as a way to strengthen your child’s listening skills and offers growth in creativity as they try to decide which animal, vehicle, etc. made the noise they heard.

I know it can be easier to just hand over the social device to your child simply because we, as parents, need some quiet time, but are we doing that so much to as limit our child’s creativity? I’m not saying we cannot ever do it, but it’s important to keep a good balance so they can develop their imagination.

LA DONNA WERTH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Parenting Style 101

Image Source: Lynn DeVries, Learning Child Educator

There are four well-known parenting styles, all of which can lead to a different type of child. Now, using a specific parenting style doesn’t guarantee a certain type of child because we only have so much influence, but it definitely has an effect on the outcome. There is one parenting style that tends to produce children who are more self-confident, more socially competent, and less anxious, and that style is referred to as “democratic.” Here are some of the tactics and results of each style:

Authoritarian Style

  • firm but not warm
  • expect their orders to be obeyed no matter what (“Why? Because I said so”)
  • children usually well-behaved, but less able to form self-regulation skills
  • children tend to lack in moral-reasoning abilities due to their sense of right and wrong coming from external forces rather than internal beliefs

Democratic Style

  • firm and warm
  • model respect
  • promote individuality and self-assertion (they create boundaries and when those are crossed, they find out why and work together with their child to solve the problem)
  • goal is to guide, not punish
  • aim to raise a young adult who has self-control, problem-solving skills, emotional awareness, and solid internal beliefs

Permissive Style

  • warm but not firm
  • nurturing and communicative, but also lenient
  • avoid confrontation and hesitant to stand by their rules
  • children tend to have inflated sense of self
  • children are often more impulsive, more likely to cause trouble in school, and more likely to be a victim of drug and alcohol abuse

Uninvolved

  • neither firm nor warm
  • provide basic necessities for children, but otherwise unconcerned
  • children most likely to be delinquent

As I said before, one style won’t automatically result in a certain type of child, but it is something to consider and reflect on. Now that you know what each consist of, what kind of parenting style do you use?

Source:

Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow

LA DONNA WERTH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Creating Reading Routines During the Summer Months

Source citation: Jackie Steffen

One of the most effective ways to improve children’s reading achievement is by reading often and early to them.  When summer rolls around we may be tempted to ease up on academic expectations and the amount of quality time we spend reading with children or children spend reading on their own.  It is natural to get distracted by the nice weather, summer to-do lists, and the freedom from structured schedules.

There are many benefits to keeping the reading momentum going throughout the summer including improved fluency, increased vocabulary, expanded background knowledge, and greater confidence are just a few.  

How can you enjoy the beauty of summertime and still foster a love of reading?  Here are a few quick tips. 

  • Make reading a part of your daily routine.  If nighttime read alouds do not fit into your summer schedule because you are staying outside later and time slips away from you, consider changing the time of day that you and your child read.  Stories outside with the birds chirping and the cool morning air will start your day off with a close connection and rich, warm discussions.  A shared reading experience after mealtimes is effective as well.  Classroom teachers tend to do classroom read alouds after lunch; maybe that is tradition that would work well for your setting.  No matter what you decide is the perfect reading routine, remember to be intentional but flexible.
  • Encourage children to select books they are genuinely interested in and excited about.  Although reading books at grade level is desirable, reading choice should be the primary focus.  Books should engage children through text, pictures, and the story line.  Book selection is crucial to developing an intrinsic joy and it also promotes independence.  It is much easier for children to get in the “reading zone” when they are hearing or reading books by authors and in genres that are engaging to them. 
  • Connect reading to family outings.  If you are heading out on a bike ride, pack a couple books and decide on a special place to take a break and relax with a good story.  If you are visiting an aquarium, consider reading books about fish or hatcheries to prepare for the trip or to extend learning after the visit.  Listening to a family audiobook as you are traveling from destination to destination sparks conversations about a shared reading experience and will leave children anticipating the next time they get to travel and hear the rest of the story.  Sharing stories as a family can leave a lasting impression. 

Remember that reading books for meaning and pleasure should be emphasized above all this summer.  There is a contagious energy about books that are read for enjoyment.  Strong connections and relationships are developed.  Above all, summertime reading creates wonder, curiosity, and the eagerness to want to discover more.  

For more information and ideas for reading at home, visit https://www.readingrockets.org/audience/parents

Visit https://www.startwithabook.org/summer-reading-learning to get additional suggestions for summer reading activities.

To download fairy tale storybook guides to support literacy development, visit https://child.unl.edu/nebraska-4-h-stem-reading-connections-program

JACKIE STEFFEN EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Amy Napoli, University of Nebraska Extension Specialist and Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Supporting Unique Interests of Children

Image source: Jody Green

I am a professional entomologist. I studied insects and spiders at the college level, and I educate people about how to manage and prevent bugs from bugging them. Though I have always had an appreciation for insects, I didn’t know urban entomology and pest management would be a career option for me, and I was an adult when I decided on a non-traditional career for a woman. Unfortunately, many children lack the role models, resources, and support to follow their passion.

A true story that is near and dear to my heart is the story of Sophia Spencer, a Canadian girl whose love for bugs brought out a negative reaction at school simply because bullies believed that girls should not like bugs. Seven-year-old Sophia was ready to give up her favorite things, until her mom jumped in to help her out. As a parent, I can understand the feelings of frustration and helplessness, not knowing exactly how to help your child. Desperate to encourage her daughter, Sophia’s mother wrote a letter to the Entomological Society of Canada and a post on Twitter was sent out to entomologists around the world like a red alert. As a woman entomologist, I responded immediately by sending one of hundreds of messages intended for Sophia. Little did Sophia’s mom know, she initiated a huge movement, which is now associated with the hashtag #BugsR4Girls.

So, what can we learn from Sophia’s experience?

HERE ARE 10 WAYS ALL ADULTS CAN SUPPORT LIFELONG LEARNING, DISCOVERY, AND THE SUCCESS OF CHILDREN:

1. BE KIND

Teach kindness, empathy, and respect for each other.

2. SUPPORT THE CHILD

Commit to learning with them, foster their curiosity, and support their interests, whether it be fleeting or lasting. Do some research, buy or borrow some books, find a podcast, or a video.

3. ASK FOR HELP

Reach out to an expert in the field through a professional organization or college directory. Passionate people love to share their passion with others.

4. TOYS AND PLAY SHOULD BE GENDER-NEUTRAL

Set aside conceptions of what boys and girls should play with and how they should play, so that all children can benefit from toys and activities.

5. NATURE IS FOR EVERYONE

Encourage children, regardless of gender, to ask questions and use all of their sense to discovery the world around them. Nature play is beneficial for a child’s overall development, health, and wellbeing.

6. SOCIAL MEDIA CAN BE USED FOR GOOD

Whichever outlet you prefer, set your boundaries, and follow through. Social media has a way of bringing people closer, but can also be intertwined with negative outcomes.

7. BE A MENTOR

If you have an expertise in something, you can inspire, nurture, and help a child struggling to find a role model.

8. YOU’RE NEVER TOO YOUNG (OR OLD) TO INSPIRE

Role models come in all shapes and sizes. Small voices can be heard, we need to elevate them.

9. FOLLOW YOUR PASSION

Children follow our lead and if we show passion for our work or hobbies, they will seek out the same for their own lives.

10. LEARN WHY INSECTS ARE IMPORTANT

Image source: Jody Green

Yes, insects at times can be challenge, but they are also a major pollinator supporter of crops and flowers. Introduce children to insects through art, music, literature, and simple observations.

Sophia not only found a community of entomologists to encourage her love for insects, but in the last few years has co-authored a scientific paper and wrote a children’s book. To learn more about her experience in her own words and voice, read and listen to the NPR story from 2017 or recent (2020) CBC Radio story. She definitely showed the world that bugs were for her and she continues to inspire others with her story.

Resources:

Arthro-Pod EP 71: #BugsR4Girls with Sophia Spencer. http://arthro-pod.blogspot.com/2020/03/arthro-pod-ep-71-bugsr4girls-with.html

Jackson, M. and Spencer, S. (2017) Engaging for a Good Cause: Sophia’s Story and Why #BugsR4Girls. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 110 (5): 439-448. https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/sax055

Spencer, S. and McNamera, M. (2020). The Bug Girl (A True Story). New York: Schwartz & Wade Books.

4-H. Entomology Curriculum: Teaming with Insects. https://4-h.org/parents/curriculum/entomology/

JODY GREEN, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | Urban Entomology

Peer Reviewed by Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Katherine Krause, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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5 Tips for Working Remotely from Home and Caring for Children During COVID-19

Image Source: B Janning, Hastings, Nebraska

If we could press rewind and go back in time to mid-March, I wonder what you would have been doing.  The sudden and abrupt transition to working from home and having to juggle roles of employee, parent, and teacher all at once was certainly something most of us were not prepared for. Most of us had little time to plan how we would design our work space, daily schedules and balance work and family under one roof full time. If this sounds like your “new normal,” you are not alone.  I have found some helpful tips and words of encouragement I would like to pass along from a recent article by Holly Hatton-Bowers and Carrie L. Hanson-Bradley, Assistant Professors at the University of Nebraska.

TIP 1: Acknowledge Emotions:

Emotions are normal and healthy and give us clues to what we may need to feel better.

Dr. Dan Siegel says that it is helpful to “name it to tame it.”  We often feel emotions in our bodies first, such as tightness in our chest or a stiff neck. Siegel advises us to stop for a minute, pay attention to what we feel in our bodies and then name our emotion. The authors recommended saying, “My body feels…and the emotion I am experiencing is…”

Keep in mind that emotions are not forever, “name it, tame it” and move on. Judging ourselves for having emotions only makes us feel worse.

TIP 2: Manage Expectations:

It is difficult to juggle all of one’s roles at the same time, so do not expect to be able to fulfill all the roles you play at the same level you did before COVID-19. It can be helpful to understand that each individual manages change differently; and this is particularly true as families adjust to the newness of working from home, parenting, and teaching at the same time.  Some will embrace it as a new opportunity for creativity while others can feel overwhelmed.  

What about Parenting Expectations?

Daily routines will be different for each individual family.  Whether it be educational activities, or family time together, young children need more than ever right now is time to connect, cuddle, have a routine with some flexibility, and to feel safe.

Can you find ways to make every day activities fun for your child? Perhaps the family meal time could turn into a picnic on the floor.  Maybe you could make a game of sorting socks when doing the laundry. Try and be intentional about when you need to work and when to play or be with your children.  It’s like putting deposits in the bank, when children receive moments of our undivided attention, then they are more likely to feel okay when parents need to move away to focus on work.

TIP 3: Create a Schedule:

Sit down and create a schedule that works for your family.  Keeping in mind it is good to allow for flexibility. Schedule in work time and time for household chores. Time for children to play and do chores and school work too.  If there are two parents in the home, the adults could alternate work hours so as to keep children safe as well as giving them the parent connection time they need most.

Image source: Sara Gavin, Sacramento, California

TIP 4: Practice Self Care                                                                   

It is healthy to take time away to focus on what you need as an adult. Yet, when we are under stress, self-care is one of the first things that gets pushed aside. Here are a few strategies:

  • Listening to music
  • Taking the time to virtually connect with friends and family
  • Spend time in nature
  • Exercise
  • Practice deep breathing or meditation
  • Eating healthy
  • Reading or drawing,
  • Getting adequate sleep and waking up at the same time each day
  • Practice positive thinking, and/or practice gratitude

TIP 5: Be Gentle with Yourself

We are collectively experiencing a worldwide crisis, and crises trigger our brains into fight, flight or freeze mode. That means our brains are focused on surviving, not thriving. So it is normal to feel like you aren’t functioning at your peak level. Have you felt forgetful lately, not as motivated, or find yourself not knowing what day it is? It may be your brain’s way of protecting you in this time of stress.

Soon, we will be able to look back on this time and process what has happened, but in-depth processing happens only after one feels emotionally and physically safe. So in this time of crisis, be gentle with yourself (and with others). Self-compassion creates space where mistakes are viewed as valuable learning opportunities, tiny victories call for huge celebrations, and we can acknowledge our suffering without criticizing ourselves for being human.

More Resources Related to this topic:

Zero to Three – many resources of activities to do with children and tips for managing stress and being with the family during COVID-19.

Child Mind Institute – https://childmind.org/coping-during-covid-19-resources-for-parents/ (they have live Facebook video chats with clinicians

https://www.nebraskachildren.org/covid-19-information-and-resources.html

UNL A Beautiful Day website – ideas for engaging children (0-8 years) in learning and play activities https://cehs.unl.edu/abeautifulday/

Sesame Street have excellent resources for engaging children in learning at home activities during COVID-19, http://www.sesamestreet.org/caring

Tips for Managing Screen Time: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/13/parenting/manage-screen-time-coronavirus.html

Be Kind to Yourself https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/between-cultures/201802/be-kind-yourself

Self-Care Tips During the Covid-19 Pandemic https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/self-care-tips-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Staying Active at Home https://food.unl.edu/article/family-food-fun-home#stayingactiveathome

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Holly Hatton-Bowers, Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska and Linda Reddish, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Healthy Habits

LaDonna Healthy Habits

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It has been quite a few months since New Year’s Day was here, and by now most of us have already failed at our New Year’s Resolution of eating healthier. However, that does not mean we have to wait all the way until next New Year’s to try again to reach our goals. Your children need a healthy, balanced diet and so does the rest of the family. I know it can be super challenging to change the routine, so here are some things that might make staying on track and reaching your goals easier!

Fresh Produce

Summer is here, and that means there is more local, fresh produce in stores, and the farmers’ markets are open again, supplying your family with great-tasting healthy food! The less preservatives, the better, and let’s be honest, fresh ingredients just taste better!

Pressure Cooker

You can basically cook any meal in less than half the time it would take if you were to make it a different way. There’s only so much time in the day, and I understand that quick, convenient meals are the way to go, especially when you have children. The last thing I want to do is cook and clean for hours at the end of the day, and that is exactly why one of these handy appliances should be a staple in your kitchen!

Blender

A good blender can make a world of difference. From fruit and vegetable smoothies, to various sauces, and everything in between, it can do it all.

Meal Prep

It’s not always possible to cook a meal every night, and sometimes it’s just “one of those days”, so that’s why cooking in bigger batches is so beneficial. Cook once or twice a week, stick it in the fridge/freezer, and warm it up when you want to enjoy a home-cooked meal without all of the hassle.

Who needs a New Year’s Resolution when you can start working toward your goals right now? Hopefully these tips will help you crush your goals this summer!

Source: Zero to Five by Tracy Cutchlow

LA DONNA WERTH, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Making Mindfulness a Priority

Photo source: The Learning Child

In the last decade, practicing mindfulness has been acknowledged more since people have been recognizing the benefits of it. Being mindful can be beneficial to everyone, but we are going to focus on how it can help your child. But first, let’s start with the basics.

So, what exactly is mindfulness?

It is simply being present in the moment, which is different from thinking about the present moment. Mindfulness means being aware of what is going on around you, openly accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without thinking about the pressures of life.It requires some effort and intentionality.

Why is mindfulness helpful for kids?

Since children are naturally curious, they are more apt to learn, live in the moment, and be attentive. However, they are often too busy just like adults. This causes children to be tired, distracted easily, and restless. Practicing mindfulness helps kids learn to pause for a moment and be present. Mindfulness helps with attention, patience, and trust which will help your child to grow up and be themselves.

Do certain kids benefit more?

Yes, actually they do! Although mindfulness exercises are great for all children five years and older who want to calm their busy minds, feel and understand their emotions, and strengthen their concentration, they suit specific children even more so. Children who have low self-esteem truly benefit from practicing mindfulness because it helps them realize it is okay to be themselves. Other children who are diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, and autism spectrum disorders also gain from these exercises. Now, these cannot cure the disorders and it is not considered a form of therapy, but it can help children approach the very real issues they’re dealing with in a different, calmer way.

Since mindfulness exercises are great for parents as well, practicing them with your child is a perfect way to spend time together!

Source: Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel

LaDonna Werth, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child and Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Costume tips to help everyone have a very Happy Halloween!

 

woman wearing halloween costume
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

I have many fond memories of celebrating Halloween as a child.  Carving out our pumpkins a few days before Halloween, toasting pumpkin seeds, and making little ghosts out of tissues and cotton balls.  However, the thing I remember the most are my favorite costumes!  One of the best ways to help your child have a safe and memorable Halloween is to be sure they have a safe and comfortable costume:

  • Consider your child’s gross motor skills; such as walking, running, going up stairs, turning, etc. Bulky costumes or those with accessories such as tails or wings may be difficult for some children to navigate in.  Give the costume a test run by having your child wear it around the house, or even on a walk to make sure everything fits correctly.
  • Masks, hoods or hats can really make some costumes complete, but they may not be safe, or comfortable. If your child’s costume comes with a mask or other head wear, give it a ‘test run’ and make sure they can see, breath and be comfortable with it on.  (Sometimes the elastic straps that hold the masks on cause the discomfort, so check those, too!)  If your child doesn’t want to wear a mask, hood, etc., respect their decision.  They will look great, with or without it.
  • Fashionable footwear may be a must for some adults, but for children, it’s all about function. Properly fitting tennis shoes or boots (depending on the weather) are going to be your best bet.  Avoid sandals, open toed shoes, clogs or  ‘high’ heels as they increase the risk of ankle injuries, blisters, cuts, and stubbed toes.
  • Adaptable outfits are a must in most US cities at the end of October. The record low in Omaha on October 31 is 35 degrees, and the high, 83!  Choose a costume that can maintain the ‘look’ if you have to add layers, but won’t be so warm your child is hot and uncomfortable.
  • Add a little pizazz to your child’s costume, and help make them more visible, by adding glow sticks, glow necklaces or bracelets, or little flashing lights.
  • Let your child help choose what outfit they are going to wear. The best way to help young children choose an outfit is for you to decide on two or three choices that you think will work well and then let your child make the final decision.  When children are given choices, it helps them increase their self-esteem and independence.  Being able to make the choice about their costume may also help your child be more excited about wearing the costume and attentive to adults during the Halloween festivities.

KATIE KRAUSE, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Tonia Durden and Gail Brand

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Gardening with Preschoolers

gardening with preschoolers, Leanne.jpg

Garden Yoga pose “Seeds”—Photo courtesy Leanne Manning

This summer several sites across the U.S. are piloting a gardening curriculum with preschoolers.  This curriculum, developed by Nebraska Extension and Texas A & M Extension, teaches children about the parts of the plant.  While it sounds simple, they are learning much more than the parts of the plant as they go through  lessons like how to plants seeds, how stems take up nutrients to help plants grow,  eating healthy foods grown in the garden, and about being patient.  It is hard work to wait for your turn to plant your seeds or to wait for your seeds to sprout.  Here are some tips shared by the National Association for the Education of Young Children to help make gardening with young children go a little more smoothly.

  1. Be prepared. Find out what grows best in your area.  Prep the garden area before the children join you.  Have many tools available for lots of little hands.
  2. Chill out. Children will plant 25 seeds in one small hole.  They will plant the leaves instead of the roots in the soil.  Other children will undo what one child has just completed.  Things will happen and it is best to just relax and go with the flow.  Everyone will enjoy it much more if you do.
  3. Have a “can-do” garden. Find all the ways the children can be involved in the garden.  Yes, you may plant those seeds. Yes, you may dig in the dirt. Yes, you can use the hand tools, and yes, you can water the plants.  When attention wanders, allow the children to move to other tasks.  We have incorporated garden yoga into the gardening time and the children love the movement.
  4. Eat what you grow. Remember children are great imitators and if they see you eating and enjoying vegetables from the garden, they too will develop a liking for them.
  5. Have fun! Pretend play is important in all children’s development so see what ideas they come up with for garden fun.  Placing an old chalkboard along the garden path can be fun for impromptu chalk art. Bring out a small pool to have water fun in the garden. Old pots and pans can be hung on the fence and used as “musical” instruments.  The list of ideas is as varied as you make it.  That reminds me, we need to try some singing in the garden.  I fondly remember picking strawberries with my mother in the garden and learning many childhood songs.

 

Source: https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/7-tips-vegetable-gardening

LEANNE MANNING, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, Sarah Roberts, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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Families Weathering the Storms

Family

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In lieu of the recent natural disasters that have impacted Nebraska and neighboring states, I felt compelled to write about my personal experience. Fifteen years ago on May 24, 2004, I saw firsthand how one’s world as you know it can crumble in minutes, without warning.  My family survived the tornado that destroyed our house in rural Clay Center, Nebraska and then went on to destroy the town of Hallam, NE.  I hope to share my experience as a parent, and some advice to our readers.

May 24, 2004 was a lovely summer day, the first day of summer vacation for my children. We were sitting down together at the kitchen table finishing our evening meal, when out of the blue, our power went out for no apparent reason. I got up to clear the table and stack the dishes at the sink. I remember looking out the window to the west, thinking how strange for the power to be out. I told the boys, Trevor age 9, Calvin, age 8, and Chase age 3 to go downstairs to play while I checked the radio. My husband, Terry went outside to look. As soon as I turned on the radio, the warning alerted us that a Tornado was heading our way and to take shelter.

Terry came running into the house and yelled to get to the basement.  We all huddled under a table and I placed nearby sofa cushions around the kids. As we rode out the storm, it sounded like an army with baseball bats were ransacking our house. I looked at Terry and said I think this is going to be really bad. The noise of wind, hail and our house ripping apart lasted for about 15 to 20 min. When the storm was over, water began to pour from the basement ceiling, as the house had been lifted off the foundation and all the water pipes had broken. As we made our way with the boys up the stairs, we were greeted by daylight, the roof of our home had been peeled away. There was debris and insulation everywhere. The bedrooms on the main floor on the southwest side of the house were hit the worse.  If we had been in bed, we may not have survived. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the tornado, there were two old concrete grain silos that stood on the acreage that were totally disintegrated into pieces no larger than a football.

They say, after you have been through a traumatic event, there are things that will trigger emotions perhaps for the rest of your life. I myself do not like that term, however I can attest that each spring and summer season as severe weather threatens, my emotions do resurface all over again. We were blessed to be safe and unharmed, but most of our belongings were destroyed. Thankful that we had each other and a community of family and friends that helped us to weather this storm and come out more resilient than ever.

Looking back, we as parents, did the best we knew how to do to help our boys  feel safe. One of the first questions they had was where we would live now, and if they would have to change schools. I didn’t know the answer, but confidently told them we would make sure we would not have to leave their school and friends. We ended up staying at Terry’s parent’s house 25 miles away, for about a month while trying to sort out what insurance was going to cover, and learning about depreciation of the value of your possessions, even though we had full coverage insurance.

Lessons Learned

This tornado taught me a few things.

After a disaster, it is important to help children to feel safe and to maintain as much consistency as possible.  Our boys had been involved in T-ball at the time and we maintained getting them to practices and games so they could be among their friends. Trevor was a 1st year 4-Her and he had already worked on many projects to take to the fair. Tornadoes can do strange things, but one of the first things I carried out of our house that day in May, was his prize insect collection he had spent most of the spring putting together. The house was destroyed all around it, but miraculously it came out unscathed.  It went to the county fair, and on to State Fair earning top honors.

The second lesson I learned is to take time to find joy in each day.  One of the best days after the storm, while still living at my in-laws came when my sister made a visit.  She brought the boys a box full of water toys, squirt guns and water balloons.  We had the best family water fight ever, I remember  laughing so much that my sides hurt. Don’t lose sight of the joy, even in the middle of chaos.

I also learned that it is important to give children a sense of closure for things that would be no more. We ended up finding a house to rent about 5 miles away from our old house.  As we began to put our new home together, we would take the boys back to the old place to tend to the potatoes and pumpkins that they had planted before the storm. They could see the destruction, but also that not everything was destroyed.

I believe my kids all came out of this storm pretty well adjusted, but I wish I had known about access to resources as a parent to help them through this disaster. I am now an Extension Educator with Nebraska Extension on the Learning Child team. I am very proud of all the wonderful and helpful resources that Extension has made available for families, farmers, and ranchers focused on natural disasters and recovery.  I encourage you to visit our websites, flood.unl.edu and https://child.unl.edu/. Here, you will find many tools to help you prepare for or weather the storm and to help with recovery efforts.  Additionally, if you have preschool age children, you can download this free NebGuide: How to Help Preschoolers Manage Their Emotions after a Disaster.  http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2261.pdf

Be prepared I suggest involving your children in creating a disaster preparation kit for your home. Check out this resource for tips on involving your kids in this activity, Lets Pack an Emergency Kit. Having an emergency kit ready will help your child feel safe.  Work together to determine what you need in your kit.

I also recommend having a detailed inventory of your possessions and personal property.  Our insurance agent told us to make a list of everything we lost.  Where do you start?  It would have been helpful if we had an inventory or at least a photo inventory or video of our possessions.  I suggest taking video of your property, opening closets and drawers, room by room, and making a time stamp on the video.  Store this in a safe deposit box and update it annually.

If you are a childcare provider, look for the new course, Emergency Preparedness for Childcare Providers.  I taught this course twice in 2019, and other educators across the state also offer this 6 hour course. You can check with your local Extension office in Nebraska for more information, or search the Early Childhood training calendar https://ecrecords.education.ne.gov/HomePage.aspx.

I hope that this advice is helpful and that you will feel comfortable to seek the resources you need to feel both safe and prepared to face life’s storms.

LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD

Peer Reviewed by Jaci Foged, Extension Educator, The Learning Child, and Leanne Manning, Extension Educator, The Learning Child

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