Description: In addition to this post I also posted today aboutthe issue of Seasonal Affective Disorder among those of us who live well north of the equator. While we reflect on SAD in our winter, we see stories of the issues of wildfires well south of the equator in Australia. Bushfires such as those experienced in Australia (in 2019/2020 and in previous years) are certainly natural disasters and their impact upon communities, families and on children are immense. Think about the impact such disasters could have on children and then think about what sorts of factors should be carefully considered when trying to prepare to, and then to actually, respond to the impact of those events over time on developing children. Once you have your thought and hypotheses in order read the article linked below for an overview from a clinical developmental perspective.
Source: Bushfires could trigger mental health issues for thousands of children, Caitlin Fitzsimmons, The Brisbane Times.
Date: February 1, 2020
So, I suspect you may have anticipated the general issues of fear and anxiety among children around and following such disasters as bushfires and perhaps the standard advice to parents of only answering the specific questions their children ask about them about such events and their consequences. You may not have thought about children being more likely, perhaps than adults, to focus upon the massive loss of animals in bushfires. But did you anticipate the advice about the optimal timelines for intervening and about waiting for a few months before doing so? As with much that can arise over the course of child development the challenge is distinguish what is natural, normal and transient from that which is potentially poised to negatively impact wellbeing and development. As will much in development, timing is the key. There is more detailed sources on this topic in the Read Further section below.
Questions for Discussion:
- How should parents speak with their children about natural disasters such a wildfires?
- How might the sorts of conversations noted in the previous question vary when the disasters are distant and opposed to local?
- What are the important timing issues involved in figuring out not just how but when to intervene with children and their anxieties related to natural disasters?
References (Read Further):
Kar, N. (2009). Psychological impact of disasters on children: review of assessment and interventions. World journal of pediatrics, 5(1), 5-11. https://www.academia.edu/download/48923915/s12519-009-0001-x20160917-30545-1qteeb3.pdf
Myers-Walls, J. (2002). Talking to children about terrorism and armed conflict. In The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues (Vol. 7, No. 1). https://www.theforumjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Talking-to-Children-About-Terrorism.pdf
Berson, I. R., & Berson, M. J. (2008). Weathering natural disasters with a net of safety. Social Education, 72(1), 27. https://www.socialstudies.org/system/files/publications/articles/se_720127.pdf
Vernberg, E. M., Steinberg, A. M., Jacobs, A. K., Brymer, M. J., Watson, P. J., Osofsky, J. D., … & Ruzek, J. I. (2008). Innovations in disaster mental health: Psychological first aid. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(4), 381. https://www.academia.edu/download/31075986/Vernberg__Steinberg__et_al_(2008)_Innovations_in_Disaster_Mental_Health_Psychological_First_Aid.pdf
Petriwskyj, A. (2013). Reflections on talk about natural disasters by early childhood educators and directors. Australian Journal of Communication, 40(1), 87. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/67649/3/67649%28pub%29.pdf
Midtbust, L. G. H., Dyregrov, A., & Djup, H. W. (2018). Communicating with children and adolescents about the risk of natural disasters. European journal of psychotraumatology, 9(sup2), 1429771. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/20008198.2018.1429771
Lazarus, P. J., Jimerson, S. R., & Brock, S. E. (2003). Helping children after a natural disaster: Information for parents and teachers. National Association of School Psychologists, Bethesda. PDF Link
Miller, P. A., Roberts, N. A., Zamora, A. D., Weber, D. J., Burleson, M. H., Robles, E., & Tinsley, B. J. (2012). Families coping with natural disasters: Lessons from wildfires and tornados. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 9(4), 314-336. PDF Link