Talking about house fires is never pleasant. It’s one of the subjects that would give anyone the shivers. And this talk becomes rather challenging when it comes to teaching kids what do in case of such an emergency. A fire emergency. It’s challenging because the subject is difficult, yet serious. Also, children are wild – as they should be, never stay still, and of all ages. You don’t approach a 5-year-old the same way you approach a 14-year-old. Right?
All the same, this is a very serious topic and the discussion must include the whole lot – fire damage, smoke alarms, sprinklers, what-to-do plans, evacuation – everything. Depending on what you manage to convey the first time around, the child’s character, and the age of the child, you may need to repeat the conversation again – perhaps, again and again. Or, you may need to break it down, including some field trips to the nearest fire station too. Since talking to kids and teaching them things are both pretty challenging as is, anyway, let us help you organize your thoughts.
Getting organized to talk about fire – damage too
Although kids are extremely smart, they lack experience and are unaware of many terms. Before you talk about fire & smoke alarms, emergency situations, what may happen and what should the family do, you need to get all these things organized in your head. Make a plan so that you will make it all very simple for them. Think of your kids – their age, your relationship, how you usually converse, where you do it – to make it easy. To involve this serious subject to the ordinary conversations.
Secret number 1 – keep things very simple by using everyday words – words they know and understand.
Secret number 2 – explain things they may not understand, like some terms. What is the smoke alarm? What do we mean by evacuation? How does the alarm sound like?
Secret number 3 – show them things instead of just sticking to theory. For example, instead of telling them not to play with matches and lighters, show them how quickly this little flame may burn a piece of paper. Explain that these are not toys but items that may hurt. And so, explain that you don’t tell them NOT to play with them just because you say so but because they will get hurt.
Secret number 4 – make these little educative talks a game by organizing a visit to a fire station, where the kids will see the big trucks and the firefighters up close. Also, organize small races in the house, simulating your evacuation plan. Act out the ‘stop, drop and roll’ part and repeat it with them.
Secret number 5 – although you should make the whole “practice” plan a game, you need to tell them that this is a very serious matter.
Secret number 6 – make the “fire damage and disaster” talk part of your usual talks so that they will be habituated to the fact that something like that may happen. Repeat the conversation, if you find it necessary, but try to use different angles every time to draw their attention. If you make it a part of the family’s usual conversations, they will remember details.
Talking to teenagers about fire is hard – let alone to 5-year-olds
Always consider the age of the child. Naturally, the younger the child, the challenging it is to explain, talk, and be understood. To achieve your goal, take their age into account.
• Toddlers, for example, may easily get scared and so you may feed them the information piece by piece, gradually. In such young ages, going to meet firefighters is perhaps more effective than words.
• With 10-years-olds, on the other hand, it’s best to make them part of the game. To make them feel important by getting some responsibility, like teaching them how to operate the fire extinguisher. Not too much responsibility though, like watching out for the family’s toddler because should something bad ever happen, they will carry the guilt for the rest of their lives. At this age, you can certainly talk to them about how to stay down, closer to the floor, see if a door is hot before they open it, closing the door behind them to keep fire from spreading, evacuating quickly, and staying out.
• With older kids and teenagers, it should be easier – even if they are your small rebellious. They actually listen – just react. And they can learn all things you teach them – even if they say otherwise. At this age, not only will they know what to do but also be able to call the firefighters to report the fire emergency. You just need to tell them all that.