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Helping Children Cope with Crisis: Make plans with Your Child for Emergencies.

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Help your child know what to do in an emergency. Make a written plan together that lists emergency information for your child. This information may include your work phone number, your cell phone number, or the phone number of someone who cares for your child after school.

Pick out safe places to meet your child during an emergency. Choose one safe meeting place close to home or near your child’s school. Make sure your child can find these places.

Why are these activities important?

Planning for an emergency can help get your child ready for any situation. These activities will help your child to:

  • Be prepared
  • Feel safe, even when you’re not there
  • Know that you’re prepared for an emergency
  • Identify safe meeting places
  • Know how to find you if something happens
  • Know that you’re coming for her
  • Take the feeling of safety wherever she goes
And the traveler girds himself, and sets his face
toward the Morning, and goes his way.

-W.E.B. Du Bois

Activity 1

What you need:

Never give up

In this activity, you can reassure your child that she’ll never be alone, not now or in the future. She’ll be a strong adult some day, standing up against life’s “storms” or everyday crisis on her own. But her family and her village will always be there to support and guide her.

  1. Read the poem, Resiliency 2, with your child.
  2. Ask your child what she thinks the poem means or what it is saying.
  3. Use these questions to start talking about the poem:
    • What are the “storms” or tough times that you and your child have been through lately? How did you get through these storms?
    • What has she learned from these experiences? What should she do during such storms?
    • How can your family get ready for other kinds of crises?


Sometimes things happen that make a child feel afraid, like thunder on a dark night. Emotions can rumble inside, like thunder and lightning rumble outside. A flashlight can make a child feel more secure in a storm. If the lights go out, she knows the flashlight is there. In the same way, an emergency plan can provide a sense of security. Everyone knows what to do. In a storm, a boat needs a heavy anchor to keep it from blowing away. People need anchors too, plans, rituals, hugs—things, practices, and people that help us feel safe and secure.

Activity 2

What you need:

  • Construction paper and a large index card
  • Markers or pens

Safety plan

Having a plan in place for dealing with emergencies can reduce your child’s fears and can help her feel safe. Writing the plan down lets her “see” that she’ll be safe. A Family Safety Card will help your child learn and remember important information, like her home phone number, address, your cell phone or work number, and other facts.

  1. Print (download pdf and print from pdf reader) the Family Safety Card or make your own using the computer or other paper.
  2. Fill out the card. If your child is younger, have her spell out the names and read out the numbers as you write them down. If you child is older, have her write the information on the card herself.
  3. Help your child learn and practice saying her address and important numbers. Choose a familiar song and fit in the address or numbers. For example, you can use the tune to A Tisket, A Tasket to help your child learn her address:
    Amira Johnson is my name
    1220 Main Street’s my address
    I live in My Town, USA
    I know my name and address
  4. Name five “safe” people outside your family that your child can show her card to. Go to the Note to Parents below for more information.
  5. Put the Family Safety Card in a special pocket inside your child’s book bag or jacket. If you want to, use a safety pin to keep the card from falling out.
  6. Practice going through your plan for a pretend emergency. Point out things that your child does well.

For younger children

Practice dialing 911, or the emergency number for your area, and describing an emergency to an operator using a play telephone or cell phone. Let your child push the buttons and ask for help.


Make sure your child knows not to show her Family Safety Card to just anybody. She should only share it with her “safe” people—those people who can help her stay safe and can get in touch with you if there is an emergency. For example, it’s OK for her to show the Family Safety Card to her teacher, to a trusted neighbor, to her babysitter, to her principal, and to a police person. Explain that she shouldn’t show her Family Safety Card to any one else because they may not help her stay safe. For more information on talking to your child about “safe” people, visit the Web site for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at External Web Site Policy or call them at 1-800-THE-LOST.

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Last Reviewed: 05/27/2010
Vision National Institutes of Health Home BOND National Institues of Health Home Home Storz Lab: Section on Environmental Gene Regulation Home Machner Lab: Unit on Microbial Pathogenesis Home Division of Intramural Population Health Research Home Bonifacino Lab: Section on Intracellular Protein Trafficking Home Lilly Lab: Section on Gamete Development Home Lippincott-Schwartz Lab: Section on Organelle Biology