Tornado, Trauma and Tunnel Vision

Our streak ended the other week After more than 5 years, we were home for a tornado warning. Not only that, it was a close call. Thankfully, it never touched down. However, as all of us were crammed in the tiny shelter space, I thought about the impact that events like this have on children who have experienced trauma.

Tropical Storm Bertha, we barely knew ye. It formed, made landfall and dissipated within about eight hours. And good riddance. But as its remnants drifted north across our state, it interrupted our perfect lazy rainy quarantine day and forced us to endure more tightly placed bonding that we’d like during this extended period of time at home.

When the unexpected occurs, it can be alarming and nerve-wracking for the most hardy of us. But, for kids who have previous experience with deep trauma, the effects can be multiplied.

I always brace when the unexpected happens: the car breaks down, the power goes out, there is horrible news we must share with our kids. Their brains process these breaks from the routine differently- and I’m never exactly sure what their reaction is going to be. Their response can be anywhere on the continuum of not a care in the world to outright panic.

Well, about 4-something on that day, my phone blared with the warning message. I startled, totally only expecting rain that afternoon. My first question is “where is everyone?” Finding out all minus me were downstairs, I said as gently to my wife as I could, “T Warning,” we need to shelter. By the time I got to the bottom of the stairs, she was pulling out junk from our designated safe closet.

Fortunately, it was electronics time. My two older boys were absorbed deep into their handheld electronic devices and simply wandered into the closet without breaking eye contact from their screens. And the toddler happily tottered in right behind them. Whew. That was wonderfully anti-climatic. Thank you Lord for tunnel vision.. .and I guess.. video games?

I turned on the TV, which we could see/hear from the closet and saw the rotation was heading directly over our house. Eesh. Thankfully it never touched down. Once the radar showed it had passed on by, we piled out – a little like clowns emerging from a clown car. Next time, we have to work a different plan. The kids- and 70 lb dog- have grown quite a bit since the last time we ran this exercise.

After we looked outside at some seriously creepy clouds, we returned to normal programming. That was a deliberate action to regain normalcy and impress upon them that it was no big deal.

At dinner, we made a point to praise them for thinking/acting quickly and bravely. And, we asked if they were scared. Our pre-teen, said he was very scared and nervous and that his heart was beating so so fast. But, because he was so focused on his video game, he was able to make it through just fine.

He then explained how helpful video games were and how we should let him have them more often.

Good try son.

How do you deal with emergencies involving your kids who suffer from trauma? Tell me in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Tornado, Trauma and Tunnel Vision

  1. I remember one these incidents when we lived in Raleigh. The phones blasted out the alert, the sky looked apocalyptic, and we ran to an interior room with the kids watching a movie on a tablet, oblivious. Having never lived through a tornado warning before, it was terrifying. That a was a huge part of my motivation to move back to the Northeast. I can deal with 4 feet of snow, but tornadoes? No thank you!

    Glad it was miss and that you’re safe.

    Like

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