By Emma Thomas
With the recent rains, storms and flooding many of our children are needing a little extra support. Every family’s experience is different, you may have had water through your home, taken in friends or relatives who needed a place to stay or been isolated due to flooded roads. There might not be as much food available at the shops and everyone is likely to be talking about rain, floods and storms. For little ones this can be overwhelming and scary. If you are also feeling overwhelmed it can be hard to know where to start. There is a lot of great information out there about supporting children through natural disasters so we would like to share some of our top tips for helping children cope with flooding:
The Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health has developed books, games and resources which follow ‘Birdie and Mister Frog’ through various natural disasters. Stories are a great way to start a conversation with children and help them understand what is going on.
Limit exposure to TV, News and Social Media
Young children don’t understand that what they see in the media might be happening in another place. Being very egocentric they think that everything is happening to them, their home and their family. This is reinforced if you have had flooding around you or in your home and are now watching flooding happen in other areas.
The Raising Children Network discuss this in more detail:
Use Simple, Age Appropriate Language
Consider the age of your child when talking to them. For very young children all they need to understand is – ‘there was lots and lots of rain’, ‘some rain came in the house’, ‘everything is ok now’. Older children might want to know where the floods happened, measure the rainfall or look at maps of rivers to understand what is going on.
Children feel safe when they are in their normal routine and environment. Where possible go about the same activities as normal, keep consistent bedtimes and spend time with close family or friends. If you have had to leave your home due to flooding, think about what other ways you can help create routine, like reading familiar stories or watching a favourite TV show.
Allow Your Child to Lead
Some children will be quite oblivious to what is going on in the world around them. You might have just had a rainy few days at home, stomped in some puddles and watched more TV than normal. If your children aren’t concerned about the flooding or weather there is no need to bring it up with them. Some children won’t have been personally affected but will be very worried, either for friends and family who were affected, or for themselves and their home. Even when these fears are unfounded, we can support our children by listening to their concerns and finding ways to help.
Getting children involved in providing practical help can allow them to feel more in control of the situation. This might be as simple as making biscuits and dropping them off to a friend in need. Also when your children see footage of the floods and storms encourage them to identify all the people who are helping to make things better for others.
Seek Professional Help if Needed
If you or your children are struggling and need extra support there are many services available.
- Kidshelpline – 1800 55 1800 and Lifeline – 13 11 14 are available 24/7.
- Make an appointment with your GP if you would like to be referred to a counsellor or psychologist.
Above all remember that children are resilient and often cope better than we expect them too! Make sure they know they are safe, loved and can talk to you about anything.