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How to talk to kids about the bushfires

21 February 2020, Action for Change

Being factual and calm about bushfires can lessen children’s fears

The devastating bushfire crisis has had an impact on us all. From those forced to flee their homes, not knowing what they might return to, to those in nearby cities, who were engulfed in smoke haze for weeks as the fires raged. 

Together we all watched with shock as news stories reported on the increasing loss of life, homes and animals. Children around the country who watched the crisis unfold have felt fearful and anxious too. Many would have thought they might be at risk, wanted to know more and have their questions answered
These conversations may be difficult for parents who wish to shield their children from bad news and avoid worrying them further. However, it’s important to speak to children about what happened, calm their fears, and engage their curiosity and energy into productive action. 

Let children take the lead 

Some children may wish to talk about what they’re thinking and feeling with parents, while others (especially younger children, who may not have the right words to express themselves), decide to draw or role play instead. Take your child’s lead in discussing with them what the fires mean for your family, and how you can stay safe. Whether that’s watching the news together, preparing your emergency plan, or helping them put their thoughts down on paper, you can guide them from a place of fear to safety

Talk about the helpers 

From emergency services to teachers to fundraisers. The country has come together to support those affected. You can talk to your children about the different roles people can play in an emergency.  

While firefighters and emergency services personnel will be front of mind for children, letting them know that teachers, family members and friends are also there to keep them safe can reassure them they won’t have to face the disaster alone. 

Many children will also be worried about their pets and other wildlife. Talking to them about the local wildlife organisations who are rescuing and rehabilitating injured animals can calm their concerns. 

What can children do to help?

Many children will want to help or do something active to channel their energy and fear. You can encourage children to brainstorm ideas about how they can help; either by donating their pocket money to a fundraiser, raising money by having a bake sale or lemonade stand, or writing thankyou letters to the local fire brigade. In the coming months, children may like to visit a fire station at one of their many open days to learn more about fire safety, see fire trucks up close, and meet firefighters personally. 

It’s also a great time to prepare and practice your own emergency plan with your children, so that they feel equipped to deal with the ongoing crisis and any future emergencies.   

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