While the school has an emergency and bushfire response plan for our site, it is essential that we are all prepared for a bushfire emergency.
Communicating with your child during this time is essential. Discussing being prepared for natural hazards, such as bushfires, is not harmful to your child, but avoiding conversations can leave them to worry on their own.
Emerging Minds Australia provides the following tips:
Including your child in the planning process can help them feel more capable of handling a bushfire threat, providing them with a sense of safety and assurance that you have a plan in place. Your child will know that even if they are affected by a disaster, you and your family will use your resources to work together. For information on how to make a Bushfire Family Plan, go to NSW Rural Fire Service.
The Australian Psychological Society provides the following tips for parents and carers as bushfire preparation needs to go beyond developing a household emergency plan. You also need to prepare psychologically. It is called the AIME model.
default to fight or flight? If you understand your usual reactions, you can put safeguards in place to manage them.
Bushfires can result in a large amount of smoke particles in the air, even when fires may be many kilometres away. Please monitor your child for any potential health implications.
Signs and symptoms students may experience include runny nose, itchy or burning eyes, headaches, coughing, throat irritation, and shortness of breath. Please contact the school if you have any concerns about your child being at school.
When and how will I know if my child’s school has been made non-operational?
Your school will notify you as soon as possible by the preferred method of communication, which will be via email or COMPASS notifications.
What education arrangements will be in place if the school is non-operational?
When non-operational, your school will advise of alternative learning arrangements, including any relocation or learning-from-home plans, in a timely manner.
If you want to know more, read the Australian Red Cross Booklet: EMERGENCIES HAPPEN: protect what matters most
Preparing for bushfires information sheet, APS.
Signs that a child or young person has been negatively affected by information about bushfires might include:
Here are some tips to help you to support your child during this time:
Limit Media Exposure: Reduce your child's exposure to repetitive and distressing bushfire news. Be confident in your role as a parent/ carer and limit their exposure to news and other programs with potentially distressing images and sounds.
Listen and Explain: Encourage children to share their feelings about bushfires. Be patient and offer truthful, simple explanations to help them understand. Correct any misconceptions.
Allow Expression: Give children the opportunity to express their feelings, whether through play or words. Accept their reactions and avoid making demands or unrealistic expectations.
Offer Reassurance: Reassure children that their reactions are normal and that they are safe and cared for.
Mind Your Conversations: Shield children from in-depth adult discussions about the events, as they may misinterpret the information. Be cautious about what they overhear.
Monitor Your Reactions: Children often mirror the anxieties they see in adults. Be aware of your own reactions, as they can influence how children respond to challenging situations.
Make sure you look after your own safety and wellbeing.
What to know more:
Watch this short clip, Preparing Children Psychologically for Natural Disasters, from the Australian Psychological Society.
Read this factsheet from the Australian Red Cross: Talking with Children Before an Emergency.
Looking After Children Who Are Anxious about Bushfire Season. Australian Psychological Society (2016).
Psychological First Aid for Children and Adolescents. Trauma and Grief Network.
It is important to be aware that children may need ongoing support in the months and even years after a disaster or traumatic event. Whilst most children do recover in time, ongoing difficulties can continue to challenge some children.
It is important that children are given the time they need to recover. Recovery doesn’t always follow a predictable path. While some children who are significantly impacted in the early months improve with time, it takes others much longer. Some children can appear to have minimal effects immediately following a disaster but can begin to feel distressed at a later time.
It is hard to predict what will happen for each individual child, but there are some steps you can take to help support each child’s recovery, minimise the likelihood of ongoing difficulties and connect them to the support they need.
Emerging Minds Australia provides the following advice for parents and carers after a disaster or community trauma.
Check In With Your Child: Keep asking your child about their feelings. Tell them that recovery may take time, and you're there to talk. Some children feel pressured to 'move on,' so establish a regular one-on-one time to discuss their thoughts and emotions.
Monitor Behavioural Changes: Keep an eye on any shifts in your child's behaviour and mood. Most children adjust to a 'new normal,' but some may need extra support if they exhibit stress symptoms or extreme anxiety.
Share Your Feelings: Be open about your own feelings and coping strategies. Normalise distress while maintaining optimism that things will improve with time and support.
Discuss Their Experience: Recognise that each child has a unique experience. Encourage open conversations within the family and involve extended family or friends who can provide different perspectives and solutions.
Embrace Imperfection: Don't expect perfection from yourself or your children. Apologise if necessary, repair relationships after disagreements, and assure your children of their safety and your love.
Maintain School Communication: Stay connected with your child's school to understand their progress. Children may behave differently at school, so open communication ensures a consistent approach to their recovery.
Encourage Enjoyable Activities: Support your child in participating in activities that bring joy, especially those involving community and social connections. Plan enjoyable experiences to look forward to.
Promote Reflection and Conversation: Focus on what has changed since the event, highlighting unexpected positives. Acknowledge difficulties but also emphasise new skills and strengths in your community.
Check Your Own Wellbeing: Prioritise your own wellbeing. Children are sensitive to adults' emotional states, so if you're overwhelmed or struggling, seek support. Your wellbeing is crucial for your children.
Seek Help if Needed: If you're concerned about your child's recovery, don't hesitate to ask for assistance. If you are concerned about your child, please see your GP for advice and support and talk to your school.
Source: Emerging Minds
Making a Bushfire Plan ebook
The Bushfire CRC has produced an e-book for parents on how to talk to children about bushfire preparation and safety.
Birdie and the Fire Resource
Parents may choose to read the Queensland Health ebook Birdie and the Fire by Angela Murray with their child. This is from Birdie’s Tree, a suite of resources to support families and young children in preparing for, coping with, and recovering from a natural disaster or disruptive event.
Relaxing With Birdie is a mindfulness and movement routine to help children calm down, relax, rest
and sleep, even in stressful times.
Australian Red Cross
Get Ready. This workbook is designed for families to have conversations with their child(ren) about emergencies and the things they can do to be prepared.
Fact Sheet: Talking with children before an emergency.
Kids Helpline is Australia’s free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25 years old.
Phone: 1800 55 1800
Email a Kids Helpline Counsellor https://kidshelpline.com.au/get-help/email-counselling/
Parent Line is a free telephone counselling and support service for parents and carers with children aged 0 to 18 years old who live in NSW.
Phone: 1300 1300 52
Mental Health Access Line
The Mental Health Access Line is a NSW Health service staffed by mental health professionals. This service gives NSW residents access to expert mental health advice, support and referrals. Where appropriate, they can put you in contact with the local mental health crisis or acute care team.
Phone: 1800 011 511
13YARN ensures Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people who are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping can receive culturally safe and appropriate health services where and when they are needed 24/7
Phone: 13 92 76