As a parent, there’s nothing that we want more in the world than to protect our kids from harm and to help them grow up to lead happy, healthy lives. Unfortunately, life is unpredictable and bad things DO happen: they may get taunted by a bully in third grade, an arm might get broken during an afternoon on the trampoline, and a million other situations can disrupt the foundations of our families. If you lived in Paradise, CA and escaped last November’s Camp Fire, then you very well might be dealing with difficult emotional issues. Here are some ways to help your family heal from this tragic event.
Kids love structure and routines, so make life as predictable as possible. Eat your meals and go to bed at the same time everyday, even if you’ve been relocated. When everything has changed, creating a routine can start to establish a new normal that they can count on.
Talk it Out
Both you and your child need to process the trauma and explore your feelings. Working through the pain will help you to cope and heal in the long run. Part of self-expression for your child may also include drawing, making up stories, or other forms of play to share how they feel. The important thing is to validate their feelings through being patient and supportive.
Take Care of Yourself
You know when you’re on an airplane and the flight attendant instructs you to put your oxygen mask on first and then place one on your child in case of emergency? There’s a good reason for this: if you pass out or get sick from lack of oxygen, there’s not a whole lot you’ll be able to do to help your kid. Same thing applies here. Take time for yourself to exercise, relax with friends, and have adult time to discuss your grown-up emotions and fears. When you get healthy, you’ll be able to help your kids heal properly.
Get Outside Help
I’ve talked to some Camp Fire survivors and their stories are terrifying. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a real issue for children and adults who’ve suffered from such an intense, life-threatening event. If you or your child are still having troubles sleeping, eating, focusing, connecting with others, or moving on, please consider reaching out for professional help. ButteCountyRecovers.org has some great resources for Camp Fire survivors.
- Disaster Distress Helpline: This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories 24/7, 365/year. Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. Call (800) 985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
- If you or someone you know was receiving County Behavioral Health services in Paradise, call the Access Line at (800) 334-6622 or (530)891-2810.
- For a more extensive guide to help children cope with this disaster, click here.