4 Tips for Helping Kids Cope with Wildfires

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By Melissa J. Johnson, PH.D.
Founder & CEO

Licensed Psychologist
(PSY 13102)

As we speak with parents, teachers, and kids this week, wildfire related stress is a common theme. The saturated news coverage, school closures, and smoky air all add to the stress for kids. We want to share some curated resources for families, educators, and others who work with youth. The links are below. These articles include tips for talking to your children, ways to promote a sense of security and resilience in these situations, and how to recognize stress in children and teens.

Here are a few of my favorite tips:

Take a Break. Keeping informed is a high priority. At the same time, news exposure can be stressful and exhausting, especially for kids.  Consider your child’s age and their general anxiety level as you consider how much unplugged time they may need.

Consider Your and Your Child’s Sensory Style and Sensitivities. The sights, sounds (sirens/wind), smells (smoke) and body sensations (dryness/heat) can create varying levels of discomfort for children and adults. Some of these sensations can be quite difficult to tolerate. Engage in activities that can provide relief from the exposure to unpleasant sensations. What are some “pleasant sensation” activities you can do as a family?

Be Calm, Reassuring and Encouraging. Your grounded presence will help your child feel safer and calmer. If your child enjoys hugs, you may want to try the 3 Breath Hug. Hug each other and breathe in sync – 3 deep breaths.  Use your words to acknowledge that fires are scary – and reassure about safety and safety plans.

Get Physical. Because of poor air quality and cancelled outdoor activities, many children (and adults) are not getting their usual physical exercise. This is especially unfortunate because we use physical activity to help us release stress, enhance endorphins, and get connected to friends and teammates. Arrange some at-home or indoor activities that can provide these benefits. Check out a local indoor pool or have a family dance party. Involve the kids in figuring out some cool things to do to get physical. Invite friends to participate in order to help maintain their important fun connections during this time.

For more ideas, checking out our curated resources. If you are in a situation where you may need to evacuate, there are some tips in these articles for you as well.

Coping with Wildfires

In gratitude,

Dr. Melissa Johnson