How To Be With Your Child During Tough Situations Such As The Australian Bushfires

How To Be With Your Child During Tough Situations Such As The Australian Bushfires

Children can be hit hardest by traumatic experiences, such as from the recent wildfires in Australia. Learn how you can help your child deal with it.

Wildfires have shaken the entire of Australia, but the state of New South Wales (NSW) in particular has been hit the hardest, according to reports from CNN.  

More than 100 fires are still burning in NSW alone.

Australian Wildfires: More Than 2,000 Homes Left In Ruins

The fire season had began since late July in Australia. While fires occur yearly in Australia due to the hot and dry summer season, this is said to be one of the “worst wildfires seen in decades” with more than 2,000 homes left in ruins. 

At least 24 people nationwide and millions of animals have lost their lives to the fires since September, according to another report from the BBC.

Urban cities, National Parks like the Blue Mountains, amongst others have been affected with “thick plumes of smoke” that blanketed the urban center. The air quality in Sydney was measured 11 times the “hazardous” level earlier in December.

And these vicious fires are not dying down anytime soon. Temperatures are “likely to soar again on Friday”, according to the same report. And many across the world are attributing it to climate change. 

How Traumatic Events Impact Children

According to the American Psychological Association, a traumatic event includes sexual abuse, acts of terrorism, motor vehicle accidents, natural and human-made disasters, amongst others. 

Adults feel the impact of such experiences, and it affects children even more as they have yet to be equipped with internalising what they see. As a result, they might succumb to deeper feelings of “anxiety, stress and sadness” as compared to adults. 

Even being a witness to a traumatic event can also be distressing for children, seeing their loved ones’ lives being threatened. To children, they are “attachment figures” whom their safety is dependent on.

children and trauma

Children and trauma: a child learns the fear of his/her parents but a parent can also play a big part in changing that.

Children And Trauma: How To Comfort And Be With Your Child
If there comes a time you are placed in such a situation, and have a child by your side who is overwhelmed, follow this guide.
#1. Be aware of your own emotions first. Then put the focus on your child.
It is the most natural thing to be distressed and be full of fear in face of a traumatic event. But it helps to know that a child’s sense of fear and anxiety can be heightened when he or she sees his/her parents in a vulnerable state. 
Even babies can sense their mother’s fear, and inherit them “before they can even make their own experiences”, according to a study from the University of Michigan Health System.
Don’t dismiss or avoid your child’s concerns—acknowledge their feelings as much as you would yours. Be the stronger one for the both of you.  
Protip: Drawing and telling stories can help your child to step out temporarily to speak about how he/she feels.
#2. Don’t mask the truth, help your child understand

Children know much more than we think they do, even though they might not comprehend it fully. 

They have a right to the truth, and parents hold the responsibility to inform, educate and provide a safe environment for their children. 

Protip: It helps to use age-appropriate language with your child. Always be mindful of any changes to your child’s reactions.

#3. Show them resilience
This is a good opportunity to show your child what resilience is. Help your child know that you (and other adults in their lives) are doing what you all can to keep him/her safe. 
Don’t forget to reassure him/her, even if you have to repeat it for the umpteenth time—it goes a long way. And of course, be with your child and treasure the moments with each other even more during these times.

Protip: Remember to send lots of hugs and kisses!

#4. Get back into the routine
Help your child slowly ease back into the routine, partake in the activities he/she likes to engage in. Whether it is drawing or playing with friends, it helps them to be hopeful that things are just like the past. 
Protip: Do not rush the process. If your child does not feel like reaching out just yet, adapt to it and gently encourage him/her.

Source: CNN, BBC, APA