There is no secret here, Australia is burning. Our beautiful country has had its pristine landscape ravaged by fire and much of the eastern side of Victoria and NSW has been reduced to ash. It is the worst natural disaster in Aussie history. Thousands of homes destroyed, families displaced, people killed and half a billion animals perishing in the flames. Small luscious beach towns that once stood, stand no more. And the reality of Climate Change smacks us in the face with force and fury. Demanding our attention.
This disaster is devastating for a number of blatantly obvious reasons. Among the many is the devastating fact that far too many children have lived through this pain and are likely to experience trauma related mental health issues for decades to come.
So how can we support our children through these tough times, particularly those who experienced this directly? There are ways.
A child who feels listened to also feels safe and supported. While you may not know exactly what to say, making yourself available to them is very important.
2. Encourage Creativity
Expressing distress, pain or trauma through creativity isn’t a new concept that’s for sure. Some children may not be able to articulate their feelings surrounding a traumatic event. They may not have the language, or they become too distressed even talking about it. Encouraging your child to write a story, draw a picture, make a college or create a song could be the best way for them to express their feelings at this scary time.
3. Monitor what they see and hear
Turn off the news, get off the socials and be mindful of the conversations you have around your child. Kids may be curious and ask you questions, but they don’t need to hear about the disaster every minute. The images they see or the things they hear might be very frightening, so it’s wise to make sure they don’t come across anything that may spook them even more.
4. Keep up the Routine
Routines make kids feel safe and secure. The normalcy of day to day life can provide the most comfort. Keep with the normal things, as much as you can, and maintain the activities that bring them peace.
5. Find ways to help
Being of service is another way to help cope. Some children will be feeling helpless in times of crisis; just like us. Offering our kindness and generosity in times of need can turn feelings of fear and hopelessness to joy. Your child is more empathetic than you think, take the opportunity to nurture that even more and make donations to those who are affected in any way you can.
6. The power of distraction
During these times don’t feel shy or guilty to do something fun for your kids. Yes, there are people suffering, and that is more than tragic, but your child’s mental wellbeing is very important. If it means doing a fun activity in the midst of despair, in order to make new and bright memories, then please do it!
Don’t ever underestimate the power of prayer in times of need. I don’t know who or what you pray to; however, putting your thoughts and feelings into the world to be heard is another way to find peace amongst the fear and pain of a disaster. Pray for peace, resilience, improved weather, safety for yourselves and others or even gratitude. Whatever your prayer is, just pray it!
Embrace your kids. Hold them close, offer up cuddles and kisses in abundance. We are biologically wired to thrive with affection and connection. Feelings of vulnerability so quickly replaced with feelings of love and safety. Get hugging now!
Hopefully some of these ideas can have a positive affect on your child after a natural disaster. More than any of these, please watch your child carefully. You know them best and will be able to see if they need any extra TLC. Disasters are a scary and uncertain time. Not only for the current day, but for our generations to come. Hold your loved ones close and offer up more love and affection than you have ever done before.
If you think your child needs more support, these organisations are a great starting place:
- Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (telephone and online counselling for ages 5-25)
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Call Parentline in your state or territory for counselling and support for parents and carers
- eheadspace to chat online
- Australia (people living with a mental illness and their carers) — call 1800 18 7263
- ReachOut.com (youth mental health service) — visit the website for info or use the online forum
You can also ask your family doctor for advice or consult a psychologist if you would like more information or mental health resources for kids.
Thanks for reading and stay safe.