When tornadoes or other disasters strike, my 9-year-old sometimes sees the news coverage and asks questions about the people affected and their damaged and destroyed homes. “What’s going to happen to those people? Are they OK? Who’s going to pay to fix their houses?”
To see someone else’s home damaged or leveled, even on TV, even in cities you’ve never visited, leaves an impression whether you’re 9 or 59. When twisters cut through houses in your town and down familiar roads, it makes the terror feel even more real.
Some questions aren’t easy to answer. My child asked what would happen to those people and their homes after the storm. At least I could tell her about home insurance and why it’s good to have it.
Following are some things you can tell the kids – and follow up on yourself – if they have questions about disasters:
We can build a new home
It starts from the time we first see The Wizard of Oz. The possibility that a storm can take away your home without mom and dad being able to save it is scary. Parents should emphasize that family members are so much more important than any possessions we have.
- Lesson learned: Our insurance will help us to fix our house. The important thing is that everyone is safe.
- How to take action: Check your home insurance policy once a year, make sure you have adequate coverage to rebuild your home if it’s lost, and have a disaster escape plan in place and rehearse it with the whole family
Don’t worry about your toys, inside or outside
Belongings in your home can be covered if they’re lost to disaster or theft. Personal property coverage in the typical home insurance policy covers your “stuff,” including toys. The policy limit is usually set at 50%-70% of the cost of rebuilding your house from the ground up. Bikes and other favorite playthings are tough to lose, but they are replaceable.
- Lesson learned: Possessions can be replaced. It’s the family’s safety that’s most important.
- How to take action: Review your family’s high-value possessions – they sometimes have separate coverage limits. If necessary, schedule an endorsement to cover them fully.
Not everyone has this coverage – but we can help
As grownups, we know it’s not a given that all families have enough insurance coverage. Kids likely will see families who don’t have anywhere to turn after a disaster and little means to rebuild by themselves. Even a child who understands that her or his family is covered might still worry about those who aren’t.
- Lesson learned: It’s important to insure things such as our automobiles and cars, and all our possessions, as well as we can.
- How to take action: Donate clothes, canned goods and other items to local shelters or the American Red Cross, consider taking a day of volunteer work if disaster strikes your community or one close to you, and, if it’s safe and appropriate, let your kids also take part.
You can’t take away every fear, but explaining how insurance – and people – can help in times of disasters can do a lot to soothe a sensitive child. It can soothe a caring adult as well.