It’s Queensland, where summer doesn’t always mean ‘beautiful one day, perfect the next’. For many Queensland families, this summer is likely to bring continued drought and bush fire risk. Other families may endure storms, cyclones or flooding.
While extreme weather events can be stressful for adults, children aged 0 to 4 are even more vulnerable to physical and emotional impacts. Imagine a severe storm with thunder, lightning, hail, roaring wind, pouring rain. The power goes out, emergency vehicles arrive with lights and sirens. When the storm has passed, damaged trees and buildings reflect its fury. These sensory experiences can be overwhelming for children too young to comprehend the science behind the weather. Especially when the event causes loss, injury or damage (home, possessions, pets, family members) or disrupts a family’s normal routines and relationships, young children can develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress with potential long-term effects on physical, cognitive and emotional development.
On Wednesday 21 November, the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health officially launched Birdie’s Tree, a suite of free resources to support expectant and new parents, children aged 0 to 4 and their families who have experienced a natural disaster. The website offers five storybooks that can be read in hard copy or on a computer or mobile device (Birdie and the Cyclone, Birdie and the Flood, Birdie and the Fire, Birdie and the Earthquake and Birdie and the Drought). There are interactive games for children to play with parents or carers, and information to help adults support babies and young children through extreme weather events. Parents and carers can also use these resources to help build children’s emotional literacy and resilience, in preparation for the likelihood of extreme weather.
All electronic resources can be accessed free of charge at https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/birdiestree/
For more information or to order print copies of the Birdie books, contact the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health on (07) 3266 3100 or PIMH@health.qld.gov.au