Expert advice: How we can help kids feel safe during bushfires
Categories: General Parenting
With numerous bushfires burning across the country today, our stress levels as a community are high. Even those of us not in immediate danger are upset about what’s happened and worried about what lies ahead.
Our kids are not immune to this.
As adults, it can be hard to know how to keep our children feeling safe when there’s danger around them. We can’t just pretend it’s not happening, but what can we do or say that will actually help?
Maggie Dent is a parenting educator and one of our team of experts at ParentTV. Along with other professionals like psychologists and paediatricians, Maggie offers her parenting guidance in short videos on the ParentTV website. We asked Maggie to make some videos with her suggestions of what the adults in our community can do to help our kids in this stressful time. Here are her strategies for parents and schools:
Don’t have time to watch the video? Here are some of Maggie’s top tips:
Normalise: Let children know that any anxiety they’re feeling about the bushfires is understandable and a normal response. When there’s a threat, their amygdala kicks in, and that means it’s working as it should be.
Empathise: Your kids might be a bit clingier than usual, they might have big reactions to things or need extra help with things like getting to sleep. Even though you’re probably managing some hard feelings yourself, try and meet them with understanding. Acknowledge the bad things that are happening and how your kids are feeling about them.
Empower them: Help your kids to understand where the fires are in your region by showing them fire maps, visiting the government websites for guidance together, and developing your escape plan together. Not knowing what is happening is scary, having (age-appropriate) information is empowering. Just like adults, kids will be a bit less worried if they feel prepared.
Be aware of what they’re seeing and hearing: While it’s good for kids to have some information about what’s happening, it’s better if you can manage how they get this. TV news and radio reports are probably going to be overwhelming, upsetting and unhelpful. Remember, they’re made for adults, with our understanding of context and perspective.
Help them take action: Even little things like writing notes and drawing pictures for families impacted by the fires, supporting a request for practical assistance or coming up with a way of raising funds will help your children channel their feelings into something positive and productive.
Be their safe place: Most importantly of all, you can help your children by being their safe place. You don’t have to pretend that you’re unaffected by it all, but it’s good if you can let them know that you’re always available to comfort and reassure them regardless. Tell them they’re not alone, you’re in this together and you have a plan.
We hope this helps you and the children around you. To those who have already experienced losses of lives, homes and community in these fires, our thoughts are with you and we’re holding space for you and what you’re going through. From our families to yours, our sincerest condolences.
To donate to the Salvation Army Disaster Appeal, click here.
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