Dr Michael Carr-Gregg’s five tips on how to help kids cope with the bushfires
Leading child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg has shared five tips for parents to help their children come to terms with the bushfires raging across the country.
They’re applicable for both children directly affected by the fires, and those who have just seen and heard about what is happening.
Dr Carr-Gregg’s five tips:
- Recognise they’ll need extra attention: “Kids are going to be more needy, psychologically, so you’re going to have to spend a little bit more time with them, allow them to be a little bit more clingy.The whole concept is to make them feel safe, and valued, and listened to in an environment of uncertainty,” Dr Carr-Gregg told 3AW’s Heidi Murphy.
- Give them time to play: “Particularly for young kids that are caught up in the fire, make sure they have time to play because kids express their feelings and thoughts through play. So if we can get them to draw, play with toys, paint, that’s a way in which we can get a sense of what’s going on in their little heads.”
- Talk to them: “For older children, we need to get them to talk, so share their thoughts and feelings by basically being open, being guided by their curiosity. Reassure them repeatedly that they’re loved, that they’re safe, and the bottom line is a lot of people have pulled together to help the community that they might have been a part of.”
- Maintain their routine: “Kids get such comfort from traditions and rituals such as going to bed, eating and playing at the same time, so that can help restore a sense of security and normalcy.”
- Don’t overexpose them to bushfire coverage: “Let’s not overexpose them to coverage about the bushfires on the news. Sometimes it would be a good idea just to distract them while it’s on.”
Dr Carr-Gregg said encouraging kids to do something practical, such as writing notes to firefighters or raising money to help those affected by the fires, can be beneficial.
“I’m loving that because what we’re doing is giving them some meaning, some purpose and belonging, some sense of what they can do,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.
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Image: Darrian Traynor / Stringer