Over the last few weeks there has been some distressing news. Locally in Barry there was a stabbing and then more recently the news the Australian Fires.
Now my 8 year old is at that age where he now picks up on what he hears and see's around him. This has lead to some very open and honest conversations with him, but it isn't easy talking to your child about natural disasters, especially as there are so many (well it certainly feels like that) and the impact and effects are long lasting, some having a huge chain of reaction that can carry on for a long time. Whilst saying things like 'You don't need to worry about that' 'It will all be fine' might be easy at the time it is not only dismissive but will often cause more worry as the conversation is shut down and we start to make up stories about why.
As an adult it can be hard to make sense of everything and can leave you feeling overwhelmed, heartbroken and hopeless. If we are struggling, how to we help support our children and young people through this?
It is important to start with an open and age appropriately honest conversation. Let's be honest we don't know and can't control all their sources of information and so if we aren't truthful, it gives them a message of despair, or that we don't feel they can be trusted.
💫 Acknowledge their thoughts and feelings. Help normalise the feelings they are going through with them. I often talk about naming the need. Stay curious with them. Using phrase like 'I IMAGINE.....' 'I imagine that it was scary when you first learnt about the fire, is there anything you would like to ask or know?' It is useful to help clarify any mis-truths or even things they are making up. My son will often make things up, this is his way of making sense of a situation, but it can lead to more worry, hopelessness and a sense that the world is a big scary place. They want to be seen and heard, when we name the need, 'I can see you are really hurting' 'It sounds like/I imagine you are scared right now' it helps them to feel 'felt' and sends a message to our brain saying that we are here to help and support them.
💫 Create some space for them to process their feelings and thoughts. Whether its through play, drawing, journaling etc. When we take time to process what we are feeling it allows us to start feeling better. It is also okay to create space for them not to talk about it. ' I wonder if this is all too much right now, or maybe you don't have any feelings around it. It is okay not to talk, but I am here if you have any questions at any time?' If I leave the door open like this I will check in the next day by saying something like 'Remember yesterday when we were talking about the fires in Australia, I was just wondering if you had any more thoughts or feelings about it?' Sometimes we need time to process what's going on, and that check in allows my child to know that I really am available to talk to. 💫 Remember that communication is more than just talking and a cwtch can help them regulate and feel safe.
Then there are the question's like am I safe? Will it happen here? I always look to be honest, and where needed I look at what we have to support us in a way that it wouldn't happen here, or what would happen if this did happen. Having a plan and knowing how to keep ourselves safe in a scary situation is very important.
💫 Try and limit social media/ radio/ news broadcast exposure. It can be overwhelming when we are hearing and seeing it constantly.
💫 Focus on the good -
🌟 I will often talk about looking for the people who come to help. The firefighters, the neighbours, communities, countries and complete strangers all working together to combat the incident and support each other. How it shows people coming together, that there is more good in the world. People are caring, compassionate, and capable of achieving anything.
💫Take action What action can we take to help towards this? This might not always be relevant, but often talking about what we could do to help can be very empowering. Giving money, or if you are local to the situation how you might be able to do more practical things. Raising awareness, and being informative with accurate information can be useful. When we take action we feel more positive and in control.
At times like these, our children may need some extra time and support. It is important to be patient, they will need to feel closer to you so bed time or any separation time might become harder as they not only feel safest with you but they need you to survive and their survival instincts are often in the driving seat.