By January 30, 2011 1 Comments Read More →

How to survive an uprising and keep your family safe

Rebecca Grappo is the founder of RNG International Educational Consultants and has helped thousands of expats manage difficult situations — including helping families evacuate in emergencies. In light of the revolution in Egypt she has compiled a list of the 12 of the most important things families can do when an evacuation is necessary.

1. This is a stressful time for the family. If dependents leave, then chances are the employee is going to be left behind to do a job. That means that families will be separated under duress. Children and teens are going to be worried about parents, pets, caretakers, school friends, teachers, and anyone else who was a part of their world.

2. Evacuations are emotional roller coaster rides. No one knows for sure how long the situation will last – will they be away from “home” for a few weeks? months? what if they never get to go back? So that uncertainty is very taxing on the family’s emotions. A family should talk about how it will stay in touch throughout the separation, and reassure children as best as possible that loved ones  left behind will be protected and safe.

3. Some children and adolescents may not ever get to go back, or “home” again. Maybe the assignment was going to end at the end of the school year anyway, and the evacuation won’t be over before then. Maybe the job that took the family overseas will be eliminated as a result of the turmoil. This means that there could be a horrible sense of loss without proper closure. There won’t be any goodbye parties, or chances to do things “one last time”. This is a loss, and a form of grief may come out of it. It is important that this loss and grief be acknowledged.

4. For students who are about to graduate from high school, this is especially upsetting. Not knowing how long they will be separated from friends is terrible. Not being able to do all those things together as a senior class is terrible. Not  graduating with their class is terrible. Not being able to finish out their classes, and take the final IB or AP tests is terrible. I’ve seen this happen before, and even seen kids be angry with their parents about it, when it’s not even close to being the parents’ fault. Hey, that anger has to go somewhere….

5. There are going to be kids left behind, too. So yes, some kids may leave suddenly. But other kids won’t, and they’re going to feel bereft over the loss of friends, too. All of a sudden, it may feel like they are left behind in a ghost town. It may seem a bit surreal. Parents, caretakers, teachers, counselors, etc, all need to be sensitive to their needs, too. They are going to be in need of extra consolation, empathy, and understanding.

6. In times of stress, people sometimes forget to take good care of themselves. Caretakers need to take care of themselves so that they can take care of others. Teens as well as children respond to routines, structure, and reassurance that together as a family, everyone will get through this. Remember, too, that eating well, sleeping regularly, and exercising are all common sense stress management techniques.

7. Younger children may find the news especially disturbing. It’s easy for adults to stay riveted to the television or other media sources to watch the breaking news. But adults should monitor the amount of media children are exposed to, listen to their concerns or ask them for a reaction if they aren’t sharing any. Parents also need to reassure children and teens that they are there to keep them safe. Do not be surprised if children and/or teens experience some regression, anger, withdrawal, aggression, crying, sadness, or other changes in behavior. Just as adults are affected by stress, I have also seen some children and teens become physically sick from it.

8. Parents, remember that you still set the tone for the family. It’s important to be honest about events with children and teens, but always in ways that are age-appropriate. If you can remain calm and reassuring, your children will pick up on your cues. If you are a nervous wreck, then your children can become the canary in the mine, reflecting the stress that they feel from you. Therefore, make the way you deal with your own stress a priority.

9. If you have to leave, have a plan for where to go. No one knows how long an evacuation may last. It’s best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That means finding a safe haven that will be a temporary home. Factors to consider are where the family might receive emotional support. Depending on the situation, it might be prudent to enroll the kids in school. If they need to be re-enrolled in school, then the system and classes need to be compatible with the curriculum the students were following before the evacuation. Kids who have learning difficulties may need extra tutoring to substitute for services they were receiving. High school kids may have online learning options from their school overseas, but they may not. They need to say current, though, so that they don’t fall behind. For kids with college plans, it’s important that they stay on track as much as possible.

10. Remember to take important documents with you. That includes school records, birth certificates, immunization records, marriage certificates, church records of baptisms, etc, for some denominations, legal records, and financial information. Make sure that banking details for how you will handle money have been worked out, and hopefully, a power(s) of attorney has/have already been prepared to allow one spouse to act in all legal and financial matters without the other.

11.  Not all Powers of Attorney forms work in all situations. It’s best to check. I’ve personally had problems with banking and insurance institutions when the companies wanted THEIR PoA executed and would not accept the PoA I presented. Getting new ones is not easy to do in the middle of a crisis, and I found some of these institutions showed no flexibility.

12. Find some sense of control in a situation that is beyond your control. One of the biggest contributors to stress is feeling the loss of control over your life. Allow kids to provide some age-appropriate input for some decisions. Maybe that means what’s for dinner, or what personal belongings to take, or how they will decorate their room. Older kids may want to start planning a summer reunion with best friends so that they know they will meet again. Structure and routines also help to give the family a sense of order and control in the middle of chaos.



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1 Comment on "How to survive an uprising and keep your family safe"

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  1. Steve says:

    This is a good, practical list. One of the things I like is just accepting what comes our way and figuring out good responses to it, even when we don’t like what’s come about. For instance, just saying, “We hope to come back, but we can’t be sure, so let’s take 30 seconds just to walk around the apartment and “say goodbye for now.”"

    The best time to execute those powers of attorney and make copies of important documents, these days maybe even on line, is well before the crisis comes, so we can do all these things when we remember thanks to someone else’s crisis, like right now if we’re not in Egypt or Tunisia :-)

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