Australia During bush fire season a lot of talk can centre around local fires or even some devastating fires nationally.
The media can be full of graphic images and so its not unusual for children to be impacted, even if they havent been directly affected by the fires.
Bush fires can be a cause of major trauma to children as well as adults.
Unlike adults, children dont always have the skills to articulate exactly how they are feeling, or may not even be aware that they are feeling fear or stress relating to bush fires, so it is important that parents and carers are aware of the different ways children express emotions such as stress or fear.
Children may have genuine fears, and being separated from parents or carers can be more stressful than usual for them during this time.
For young children, the loss (or fear of losing) even what seems to adults like a small thing, such as special toy, can be very upsetting.
Identifying the signs as early as possible can help minimise the stress your child feels.
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Your child may not tell you they are feeling fear or stress in relation to the bush fires. Some of the signs that your child may show if they are feeling emotional stress include:
Stomach aches or headaches Bad dreams Eating problems Regressing Fear of the dark Temper tantrums Withdrawal Clinginess Anger Over reacting Guilt
The continuity of positive family support is the greatest security for a child and will help them deal with any emotional distress much better. It is also important to keep as many familiar routines running.
“Bush fires can be a cause of major trauma to children as well as adults.”
Children need to know whats happening. You can reassure your child by telling them that you are there to protect them and keep them safe. Allow children time to talk, to ask questions and share worries with a caring adult.
Often children and adults who feel like they are doing something helpful can cope better during natural crisis like a bush fire. Families could send clothes and toys to families affected, write letters of empathy or take part in fundraising for victims.
If a childs reaction after a bush fire seems to be getting worse, or not showing any signs of getting better after a few weeks, it is important to seek professional help.