Books Help Kids Cope After a Natural Disaster

It’s easy for children to feel overwhelmed and devastated by the catastrophic scenes emerging from Australia’s vicious bushfires. Families across the country are on edge. Sometimes, children don’t have ways of understanding what they see and can be particularly vulnerable to feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness.

So how do we help our children cope with this unprecedented emergency? How do we make them feel safe?

One way is to visit the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health’s Birdie’s Tree resource centre. These resources are designed to help parents, carers and teachers help young children process their fears and emotions after experiencing a natural disaster. Birdie’s Tree includes illustrated storybooks about Birdie and her friend, Mr Frog, who together face the turmoil of having their homes destroyed by a flood, cyclone, fire, earthquake or drought. The stories sensitively explore the emotional impact of loss and the power of rebuilding.

The storybooks are accompanied by a series of online games and activities for children, and information sheets for parents, teachers and carers.

Children’s Health Queensland senior psychologist and co-author of the books, Dr Andrea Baldwin said infants and young children could experience more fear and anxiety than older children or adults during and after a natural disaster, because they have limited understanding of the weather and events going on around them.

“After a natural disaster, a child may feel anxious, uptight and struggle to concentrate. Their sense of trust in the world may be impaired, making them frightened to explore and experiment, which can interfere with their learning and development,” Dr Baldwin said.

“Every child is different – one may bounce cheerfully through a major event like a natural disaster, while another will need a lot of reassurance and support. Playing a therapeutic game or reading a story with a caring adult can help a young child work through distressing experiences and ‘big feelings’.”

© Copyright - The Centre For Healthcare, Knowledge & Innovation