Fires, or other types of disasters, can leave children feeling frightened, confused and insecure. Disasters affect everyone and therefore it takes everyone to help prepare. My family experienced a small house fire the end of December. Helping my children cope with their emotions was very hard for me. It was difficult to see the stress, anxiety, and behavior changes it was causing them. I have been utilizing the following suggestions to help myself and my children as we work through this situation.
- You are their biggest influence-managing your own feelings will make the disaster less traumatic for your kids.
- Encourage dialogue– listen, talk about how they’re feeling and validate their concerns.
- Answer questions– give age appropriate information and clarify any misunderstandings.
- Be calm, be reassuring– talk about concrete plans for safety and have them contribute to your family’s safety plan.
- Shut off the TV! – news coverage creates confusion and anxiety and can make them believe the event is recurring.
- Find support– use your support network to help you cope which in turn will help your children cope.
Some children do endure some psychological distress if they have direct exposure, experience a loss/grief or have additional on-going stress. https://www.ready.gov/kids has a great section on helping children cope with a disaster. In their resource section they have a link to Listen, Protect and Connect: A Psychological First Aid Series. There are handouts for parents and children, teachers and families, and neighbors. They also have a Parent FAQS broken down into the ages of children to make finding answers a little easier. You can download their Teach Preparedness Curriculum for grades K-12.
Even though it’s been over a month now my children still talk about the fire and sometimes their anxiety does come back. I remind myself that this will be an ongoing process for in time we will heal. While we are still working on getting our lives back to normal we are eternally grateful for quick first responders. Maintaining a positive outlook has really helped with my mental health and it’s given my children something to focus on. The kitchen is being remodeled, my spring cleaning will be complete and the kids are excited to paint.