• Child Development

Helping your kids through the bushfire crisis

I’m sure some of you may have experienced your children asking questions and demonstrating anxious behaviour over the bushfires that have been occurring at the moment. These questions may stem from concerns over immediate danger towards them or your homes, the people affected by the bushfires, or the animals that have also been affected. Below are my top 3 tips for supporting children in the current and any natural disaster situation.

1) You are there to keep them safe: The very first action I’d recommend when approached by your children with these worries is to reassure them that you are in control when in an emergency, letting them know that they can rely on you as a parent or guardian to ‘be in charge of the ship’, so to speak. We do this in order to provide a sense of safety and security for our children. Anxiety is an emotion that thrives in an “unsafe” environment. Providing a sense of safety can help to calm this emotion.

2) Problem Solving Actions: Another thing I’d recommend when communicating with your child is to inform and educate them on the efforts that are going towards fighting these fires – and making a difference to those affected. Listing the efforts made by the firefighters, as well as the donations and support going towards them, are examples of how you can better educate and inform your child in this time. You may also want to let them know of the support for individuals or families that have experienced loss of their home or loved ones, or efforts gone into supporting animals that have lost their habitats (joey pouches and koala mittens are particularly cute examples of this type of support).

3) Promote an internal locus of control: Feeling helpless and hopeless is no good in a fear-based situation. Thus, one last thing that I would recommend is to provide an internal locus of control for the child. When a child feels hopeless in a situation such as this, self-driven actions either big or small can cause them to feel that they are facilitating a positive change or outcome. Actions they might take could be a donation, volunteer work, a fundraising drive, or even raising awareness at school or in the community. The feeling of control over the situation is strengthened when these contributions are made, which is why it is important that we can offer children these opportunities to establish control.

Children will worry, and that is perfectly understandable in such a situation. As parents, we have a responsibility to work through these feelings with them and support them in what they are feeling by educating and supporting them with what they are experiencing. I hope this has been helpful towards those that have children that are experiencing anxiety over the current bushfires.

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Yours in parenting,

Emma Spencer

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