Bad weather can happen at any time. It is one of the reasons to be prepared, and to prepare your children, as much as is practical without frightening them. The balance can be a difficult one to find. It will depend on your individual children, their imaginations and their knowledge of the world so far.
For people who live where bad weather is a common occurrence, preparing your children to deal with it is easier, as they can quickly see cause and effect at work. For those who face weather extremes only once every couple of years, it is more difficult to find the middle ground between preparing and scaring children.
If your winters or summers are particularly harsh as a regular happening, preparing children for them will be more a part of every day life. You can choose to do it invisibly, for instance, always making sure you have a store cupboard full of long-life foods and candles and not mentioning it to your children. You can also prepare them by commenting occasionally when you are doing grocery shopping that you could get two tins of coffee instead of one and one can go in the winter cupboard. That gives the child the opportunity to ask questions if he or she is curious, and opens the way for a more detailed explanation from you as to why you might need to stockpile food.
When reading to your children, you can sometimes select books and stories that relate how other people cope with extremes of weather. It may surprise you to know how some children retain the essence of stories for a long time after they hear them, and make quite strong connections between the scenarios in the stories and ones they face day to day. Again it gives the opportunity for questions and answers, and children often act out the stories they are told later on with other children or with their teddies and dolls. So if you pick a story about a lighthouse keeper who makes it through a stormy night, you may find your child building a big tower and making teddy sit at the top while the wind howls and the sea crashes all around him until a boat comes to his rescue or the storm dies away. This is a crucial feature to children's stories, and something that sees us all through in the worst of times: things always turn out right in the end.
A few simple survival tips can be taught to children as part of a game or a camping adventure. Grandparents can be useful aids in this activity, as children often have a closer bond to them than to their parents when it comes to taking notice of what they are told. Grandparents have also often been through extremes of weather and can turn them into great old war stories!
If you live in an area prone to tornadoes and have a permanent shelter of some kind, it is a good idea to let the children sleep there occasionally when there is no tornado warning. This familiarises them with the layout and the different sleeping arrangements separately from the hurry of a real storm warning. Just as children should always know the quickest and safest route out of the house in case of fire, they should also know how to get to the shelter in the dark. Keep a small bag of special toys for each child in the shelter if you can, along with the flash lights. The more a child feels at home, the less frightened they will be.
Basic hygiene routines will help children during very hot periods and floods. They must know not to drink water that does not come from a specific source, and teach them simply not to waste water as a daily exercise. Show children how several thin layers of clothing are warmer than one or two thick layers again by using stories if you can find suitable ones. Make a game of seeing who can dress up in the most layers. Try to make sure that children do not get too used to living with central heating or air conditioning, because in their lifetime it may become an expensive luxury.
Of course there will be some natural disasters and extremes of weather that cannot be planned for beyond the most simple precautions. Earthquakes and sudden floods or mud slides just have to be dealt with by adults and children alike. If nothing else, teach your child to recite their address and telephone number and the name of one or both parents, because in the event of an emergency, being reunited with your missing child is the most important thing on anyone's mind.