Supporting the Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Recovery of Babies, Young Children and Families Impacted by Natural Disasters

Natural disasters such as floods, fires, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis and droughts can have a significant short or long term physical and emotional impact on all ages, regardless of whether one is directly or indirectly affected.

Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable and can easily become distressed and experience more fear and anxiety than adults. Some continue to display behaviours and emotions that can interfere with their social and emotional well-being, their quality of life and may even compromise their development.

Whilst the impact of natural disasters is well documented, disaster response management strategies and interventions have until recently been directed at older children, teenagers and adults with limited equivalent resources available to support babies, young children and their families.

Recognising the importance of early intervention, the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH) has developed a suite of resources targeted at families with babies and young children who are impacted by a natural disaster.

The resources are evidence-based and align with the recommendations of Psychological First Aid. They are designed to promote recovery, build resilience, and enhance social and emotional wellbeing. They also provide information on how to identify those children who may benefit from specialist assessment, intervention and support. By using online hosting, the resources can be downloaded and printed or there is the facility to read the books and play the games on a mobile phone or iPad, making them easily accessible, particularly in rural and remote areas.

The resources include:

  • Information sheets and booklets for parents, health professionals, disaster responders and educators available on the QCPIMH website.
  • A set of five story books for 0-4 year olds which follow Birdie and Mr Frog through various natural disasters (floods, cyclones, fire, drought, earthquakes and tsunami). These are available to purchase via e-book, or hard print but can also be viewed online.
  • The Birdies Tree website which hosts the story books and a suite of interactive games which encourages children to work through frightening memories and ‘big feelings’ resulting from the disaster. Parents, carers or emergency responders can access these on a computer, laptop, iPad or mobile phone.
  • A Childcare Curriculum with activities and information for early education centre staff working with children 0-4 years of age.

This article was kindly provided by Mrs Andrea Murray.

Advanced Speech Pathologist and Infant Mental Clinician

Zero to Four Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS)

Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH)

Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service

Andrea will be speaking at the 2018 Australian & New Zealand Disaster & Emergency Management Conference, along with presenting a trade display on behalf of the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health.

Secure your seat to hear Andrea’s presentation today. Click here to register.