Involve your children in your bushfire survival plans, psychologist urges

22 Deceember 2016

published by http://www.abc.net.au


Australia    

Planning for and talking to your children about bushfires can help them cope and feel safe should you or your home come under threat this summer.

Kirsten Blouse is a clinical and forensic psychologist who has worked with families in evacuation centres after bushfires have hit.

She told 720 ABC Perth that parents needed to start by preparing their families and their homes for fire now.

"The fire and emergency services have great planning tools on their websites," she said.

"You can work through those as a couple and then start to include the children.

"It's that really fine balance of sharing information with them, but not too much.

Give children a role to play

Like adults, children feel better prepared for emergencies if they have a role to perform and a degree of control.

Ms Blouse suggested older children could be given the task of packing their bags in preparation for an emergency.

Or if they have a younger siblings, older children can be tasked with getting bags ready for them too.

"You have them get a bag packed ready to go with things, not only that they need but getting them to choose things that they like and things that you know will help them feel better if they find themselves sitting in an evacuation centre for quite some time," she said.

If fire affects a family without warning, Ms Blouse said she would recommend psychological first aid essentially just allowing children to talk about how they feel.

"Children need lots of reassurance," she said.

"Provide them with a capacity and ability to talk about their feelings and correct any misunderstandings they might have about what is going to happen.

"When they are in the evacuation centre, it's about talking and letting them talk."

In her experience, the better their parents handle the aftermath of a bushfire disaster, the better the children recover as well.

"If their parents are solid and steady and coping well, then their children are going to be way better off," she said.

"They are pretty resilient, so if you provide the right things for them, then they will come through it."

You can get more information about planning for a bushfire emergency by visiting ABC Emergency.