Help your Family Cope with Displacement and Wildfires

Our hearts go out to all the families coping with wildfires and displacement during this already challenging time. Here are a few tips for how to help your young children with anxiety and displacement around fires:

1. Be Prepared: Follow recommendations in your area. Here is a link for resources on how to prepare for evacuation due to wildfire. Everyone in the family can be comforted by taking the best steps to protect your home and family.

    2. Talk to your Child: What you say to your child will depend on their age and the situation you are in. In general, be honest and calm and answer your child’s questions the best you can. Here are some examples of what you might say:
    • If fires are far away from you but the air is smokey: “You might notice that the air is kind of smokey today. That’s because there are forest fires far far away in the woods. There are firefighters working to stop the fire and put it out. We are going to play inside today, to stay out of the smoke.”
    • If you are preparing early for evacuation: “You might have noticed the grown-ups are packing up some bags and putting them by the door. We are still safe at home right now because the fires are far away in the forest, but we want to have everything ready in case things change and we need to go someplace else. If we leave, we will have everything we need with us and ready to go. Is there anything you want to make sure we bring with us?”
    • If you are leaving in emergency conditions: “Okay, it’s time to follow through on our plan. The firefighters are letting us know it’s time to go somewhere else to stay safe. Follow me.”
    • If a child starts to cry or show fear: “All of your big feelings are all welcome. This is all very different isn’t it? I want you to know that your grown-ups have got this. We have plans to keep us safe, and the firefighters and other people will help us too.”

    3. Play: In an acute emergency, we obviously don’t have time to play - but if you are in a safe place remember that your child needs to play to cope with stressful times. Make sure to pack toys and your child’s distance learning supplies with you if you go to a new location. The sooner your child feels the comforts of home, and engages in play, the better they will feel.

    4. Re-Establish Routines: If anything has changed in your routine, whether small or large, do your best to re-establish norms. This is another thing that can help children adjust quicker. The more predictable their lives, the more safety and security they feel.

    5. Additional Resources: You can find a link to a video of Ms. Kelly, reading Alpaca’s story - a children's book about handling stress, on this page here on our website. Alpaca’s story promotes anxiety management and coping with things that we cannot change. We hope these tools can support you during this difficult time.

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