It has been a difficult and traumatic start to the year for many Australian families. Instead of starting the New Year on a positive note, we have started the new decade watching much of our country burn. This is has been devastating for our country and communities. As parents of small (or large) children it is important that we address the fears and questions they may have and reassure them during this difficult time.

Let them talk. Let your child voice their concerns and worries. Provide them with a safe space where they can let their emotions out, no matter how trivial they may seem. Be available and listen carefully.

Reassure them that it’s okay to feel worried and concerned. It’s normal to be scared and many other people are too. Children may be sad, worried, confused and frightened, or they may not feel anything at all. All of these feelings are normal. Let children know that it’s okay to feel all of these things.

Validate feelings “I can hear that you are (sad/scared/worried/angry) it’s okay to feel that way. There are people who are working very hard to help and they are also working hard to keep us all safe”

Be mindful of the amount of news and social media they are exposed to. If a child seems to be particularly stressed while watching the news, maybe turn it off for a while and talk to your child about how they are feeling.

Focus on positives. Talk about other things going on in your child’s life that are normal and grounding – friends, family, school. It may seem trivial at this time, but it may help your child to see that there is hope and that life goes on.

Look for the helpers. Talk to your children about the incredible things that are happening. Communities coming together, people saving wildlife, the WONDERFUL job that our firefighters are doing, the amazing fundraising efforts currently happening.

Take action together. Think of the ways you can contribute as a family to bushfire relief. My 10 year old daughter sent all her carefully saved pocket money to help injured koalas. My son sold his old surfboard to donate money to firefighters.

Take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Reach out to family and friends. Make sure you acknowledge your own feelings and let yourself grieve alongside our devastated communities.

If at anytime you feel that you or a family member are not coping, please seek professional help.