As the bushfires continue to devastate our beautiful country, many of us have been left feeling scared and helpless, whether we’ve been in areas that are being directly affected or not.

In particular, it’s been difficult to know what to say to our children. To know the words to say that can make them feel safe and understand the situation but still protect them from the horrors of the crisis.

Comedian Hamish Blake is known for making us laugh and always seeing the positives in every situation, so when he revealed he’s been struggling to talk to his five-year-old son about the bushfires we completely sympathised with him.

Hamish Blake with wife, Zoe Foster Blake and their kiddos, Sonny, five and Rudy, two.

Taking to Instagram, Hamish, 38 revealed when talking with Sonny, he’s been focussing the conversation on how everyone is pulling together to help rather than discussing all the devastation and loss.

“To be really honest, as a dad I’ve struggled with how to talk to my 5 year old about this, and which bits to talk about, because he is little and these issues are big,” writes Hamish, who is married to author and Go-To skincare founder, Zoe Foster-Blake and is also father of two-year-old, Rudy.

“Like all you legends, we have of course given money as a family. So. Rather than talk about the specific amount, or focus on the destruction, we talk about why people give and where it goes. I found it helpful to focus on what good we can see in this moment of everyone pulling together. We talk about how Australia is a big family and we all help each other out.”

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Hamish admits he struggled with knowing what to say to Sonny about the bushfire crisis.

Hamish goes on to talk about all the amazing emergency workers and volunteers who have stepped up and who have been there for all of us over the past few months.

“We talk about the men and women who choose jobs to protect us. The fireys, emergency services, volunteers, and the ADF. We talk about the fact they didn’t have a Christmas holiday and instead put themselves in the way of danger to help. Even though it was scary. That they are true heroes for that.

With millions of hectares of land lost and more than a billion animals, Hamish tells Sonny about our land and our wildlife and the role we need to play in protecting it and them.

“We talk about how special nature is. How it’s our responsibility to protect it because humans and animals need the planet at a very, very specific temperature to live on (here I use the analogy about how mum needs the bedroom at a very specific temperature to be happy).

“I’m sure these conversations are happening all over, and while the circumstances for having them are tragic, the outcomes of the conversations with our kids is a source of hope, I think. Hope for a tomorrow shaped by them built on awareness, kindness and care.”

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Hamish finishes off his post by saying this is not the future we want for the kids and it’s up to us to make some changes.

“Then there’s the whole bunch of conversations the current Grown Ups need to have about that tomorrow, so when todays kids get there they don’t all steal our walking frames and false teeth as punishment for not being able to breathe.

“We have seen the work of heroes on the front line in response to the disaster. But there are certainly positions vacant for heroes at the upper levels, for what happens from here on in…”

Here, here, Hamish. Beautifully said.

 

Expert advice on how to talk to your children about bushfires

The Better Health Channel, funded by the Victoria Government, suggest following these seven guiding principles to use when talking to children about bushfires:

  1. Listen carefully to what they say. Children will often talk about what they are thinking or how they are feeling (‘I think something bad is going to happen’, ‘I am feeling scared’) without necessarily connecting their feelings to a specific event. Listen carefully to the child’s words to get an understanding of what is going on in their mind.
  2. Ask questions. If you notice changes in a child’s behaviour and you think this might be a reaction to the risk or impact of a bushfire, ask them to describe what they are thinking or feeling. And if a child asks a specific question (‘The sign is red today, that’s bad isn’t it?’), answer their question, being reassuring but truthful. (Explain to them that red means there is a risk of fire, but also help them understand what you are doing to make sure everyone is safe.) Try to find out what made them ask their question. This will help to identify the source of concern, which may be different to their question.
  3. Use age-relevant language. Use language that is easy for children to understand.
  4. Identify unhelpful thoughts and feelings. When talking to children about bushfires, help them to recognise unhelpful thoughts and feelings and then teach them to use more helpful alternatives. For example, instead of thinking ‘I think something bad is going to happen’ you could encourage your child to think, ‘Because it is going to be a hot day I am feeling a little scared, but mum and dad have a plan to help us stay safe.’ Tell them what that plan is. For example ‘The whole family is going to go and stay with grandma and grandpa.’
  5. Remain positive and reassuring. It is important that adults use positive and reassuring language when around children; explain that a plan has been made to keep everyone safe and show them how it will work. If they talk about bad things that have happened in the past (such as Black Saturday) explain that you have learned from that and will be prepared.
  6. Build resilience. Help children to grow in self-confidence by talking to them about the various bushfire preparation steps taken to ensure their safety.
  7. Manage your own reactions. Try to manage your own stress reactions and to model good coping strategies to children. (Relaxation techniques such as calm breathing – three seconds in through the nose and three seconds out through the mouth – can help, having a bushfire plan in place will help to minimise stress because you are prepared and know what to do.)

 

The Rebuild our Towns campaign is helping to get small towns up and running again

There’s not a single Australian who hasn’t had their hearts broken by the horrific bushfires that have swept through our country. The road to rebuild will be long but as a nation we will: brick by brick, fence by fence.

Bauer Media launched this campaign to help our neighbours in their time of need.
Each week Bauer’s portfolio of magazines (print and digital), led by Woman’s Day, will shine a spotlight on a town sharing information with our readers about how they can help, from the best fundraisers to donate to that specifically benefit the locals, to products they can buy from that town or region that support small businesses there.
We’ll highlight the farmers who need fencing supplies, the schools which are short of books and pencils, the yoga school that needs mats or how to plan a getaway to the region when the time is right to bolster their local tourism industry.
The Rebuild our Towns campaign is centred on the fact that practical help doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Our love and thoughts go out to every person, but actions speak louder than words, so join us to make a difference and help our heartland heal.