How Should Fires and Disasters Be Explained to Children?

how to explain fires and disasters to children
how to explain fires and disasters to children

While the children could not get over the troubles of the pandemic period, they felt the pain of the forest fires that affected us all, listened to the news and witnessed the anxiety. In order to cope with the anxiety of natural disasters, it is necessary for all children, not just those living near the fire, to take their feelings seriously, explain the cause/effect relationship of the disaster correctly, and ensure that they feel safe. DBE Behavioral Sciences Institute Child and Youth Psychological Counseling Center Head Clinical Psychologist Gülşah Ergin shared the possible effects of natural disasters, especially fire, on children and solutions.

Children are witnessing a historical process of change. The process of global warming and climate change, which affects the whole world, brings with it extraordinary natural events and disasters. It is among the most important responsibilities of families to inform children in a healthy way about natural disasters that are increasing not only in our country, but all over the world, to explain the cause and effect relationship in a way they can understand, and most importantly, to make them feel safe.

Clinical Psychologist Gülşah Ergin Ateş from DBE Institute of Behavioral Sciences pointed out that providing information to children will relieve them and reduce their anxiety and said, “Fire can be explained to children within the framework of other natural disasters. It can be said that natural disasters are irregular and mostly unpredictable natural events. sohbet possible,” he said.

Support a sense of trust

Clinical Psychologist Gülşah Ergin believes that children do not have to experience an event as a traumatic experience; He said that witnessing that event, hearing about the event and even seeing what happened on the screen can have a traumatic effect on children. Expressing that anything that exceeds an individual's physical and psychological capacity can turn into trauma, Ergin said, “After a traumatic event, not all children may show the same reactions at the same time. Any change in behavior and emotion that goes beyond the "normal" conditions for each child should be carefully monitored. Introversion, regression in something he was able to do before, a general state of fear-anxiety or anger, hyperactivity, somatic symptoms are the symptoms frequently seen in traumatized children. The feelings of “confidence” and “feeling safe” of the child who has had a traumatic experience are mostly damaged. For this reason, it is very important to be physically and emotionally next to the child, to say that we love him, and to emphasize that he is safe “now”. Giving information about what happened, what the situation is now, and in the face of what happened, “I am very sad too. Sharing our own feelings with sentences such as "I was very scared too" will also make the child very comfortable. In addition, creating opportunities for children to play and have fun will accelerate their recovery process.

Watching the news can be jarring

Clinical Psychologist Gülşah Ergin mentioned that the news mostly focus on the worst and most impressive aspects of the agenda and that the contents can be very shocking and very sad for children, and said, “We should not forget that the news published are not prepared for children, but for adults. It would be better not to expose children directly to the news. However, children may still be hearing things. It is very important to inform children about the agenda in our country and in the world in accordance with their age, to answer their questions if they have any, and to help them express their feelings.

Don't underestimate their feelings

Stating that it is critical not to underestimate children's feelings during natural disaster processes that affect all segments of society and cover the entire agenda, Ergin said, "There is nothing to be afraid or upset about." It's not the right approach. On the contrary, it is very normal to feel fear and sadness in such situations. “Now you have heard/seen such things, you did not understand, you were very afraid of him.” or “You are so upset that these things are happening, you are so confused.” That would be a much more accurate approach. In this way, the child will be supported in expressing his feelings, while at the same time he will be calmed. It will also be very comforting for children to provide information about aid resources in such situations: 'There are firefighters, policemen, doctors there now. Everyone is doing their best.' explanations can be made,” he said.

Trust first, awareness second

Gülşah Ergin emphasized that the priority is to build trust in times of disaster, but that it would be beneficial to share the possible future effects of climate change with children. “Children are not responsible for the current global change and we cannot put more responsibility on them than they can bear. However, it can be instilled in them with an informational game logic that will make them be careful about consumption, environmental protection, love of forest, tree and animal, water and energy use. First of all, domestic actions such as being a role model, for example, giving children the task of inspecting the forgotten lights, and supporting the use of less paper can enable them to participate in the construction of a sustainable future.

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