The waters are already receding and the cleanup has begun, but the effects of this disaster will be felt for a long time. I hadn’t intended to post again about the 2011 Brisbane floods. However, I have had requests from readers across Australia and around the world!
Whether you have a four year old or a fourteen year old, they are probably asking you the same question: Why? Some whys are easy to answer…
- Why is the news on all day?
- Why isn’t Dad going to work?
- Why is the power off?
- Why are the supermarket shelves empty?!
Some whys are harder…
- Why do people build houses where it floods?
- Why is it flooding on a sunny day?
- Why didn’t the dam stop the flood?
- Why did some people die?
Some whys are difficult, even for us…
- Why couldn’t we save everyone?
- Why do we have to have floods?
- Why does God let bad things happen?
As parents, we have a responsibility to walk our children through times like this – and it isn’t always easy. Their questions need to be acknowledged, even if we can’t give them answers. We have to know our kids. Really know them, in order to help them make sense of the world around them. We have to know how much information they can comprehend. We have to know how sensitive they are. We have to know how much they are likely to worry. We have to know what will reassure them. We have to know our kids.
My 2yr old son understands only a little of what is going on. He has seen television footage (hard not to here in Brisbane) and talks about the river. “River. House in river. Oh mess! More river. Truck in river. Oh dear. Mess!” He followed his sister’s lead when they played floods earlier this week, and his focus was mostly on, you guessed it, the river. I have simply explained to him that we need to make the river “all safe” again and fix the mess.
My 4yr old understands more and is asking lots of questions. She asks about our friends and family (particularly her aunty), and whether they are safe. She needs reassurance that our home will not flood. She wants to pray about kids whose toys and clothes washed away. She processes through play, rescuing people and rebuilding cities in her roleplay. I am careful though to protect her from some information and some of the distressing television footage. This is part of my job as her mother. I have to know which things will be too much for her to deal with.
One thing that can help children of all ages to process the aftermath of a disaster, is to give them a practical opportunity to respond. If your child is upset about other kids having muddy bedrooms, for example, ask them what they would like to do about it. Young kids might like to donate some of their toys to charity, or to a specific evacuation centre. Primary aged kids might like to donate some of their pocket money, or spend some of their money on a new toy for another child. Local teens might like the opportunity to get in and help another family clean out the mud. Other teens might be prompted to come up with a fundraising idea. Letter writing is another great practical way for kids of all ages to respond. You might help your child to write an email asking for change, post a letter of thanks, or send a drawing to give encouragement.
Most of us have been indirectly affected by the flooding. If your family has been directly affected, or your child is having difficulty dealing with this disaster, I would strongly suggest that you seek counselling.
1. Know your child
2. Acknowledge their questions, answer appropriately if you can, and admit it if you can’t.
3. Help your child to respond according to their age and understanding.
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How have your kids been affected by the flooding in Queensland (and beyond)? Have they asked lots of questions? What other ideas do you have for responding in practical ways??