28 November 2018

The Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health has launched a series of online books and games to help young children traumatised by cyclones, bushfires, floods or other natural disasters.

The Australian-first ‘Birdie’s Tree’ resources are designed to help parents, carers and teachers help young children process their fears and emotions after experiencing a natural disaster.

It includes a series of illustrated storybooks about Birdie and her friend, Mr Frog, who together face the turmoil of having their homes destroyed by a flood, cyclone, fire, earthquake or drought. The stories sensitively explore the emotional impact of loss and the power of rebuilding.

The storybooks are accompanied by a series of online games and activities for children, and information sheets for parents, teachers and carers.

Children’s Health Queensland senior psychologist and co-author of the books, Dr Andrea Baldwin said infants and young children could experience more fear and anxiety than older children or adults during and after a natural disaster, because they have limited understanding of the weather and events going on around them.

“After a natural disaster, a child may feel anxious, uptight and struggle to concentrate. Their sense of trust in the world may be impaired, making them frightened to explore and experiment, which can interfere with their learning and development,” Dr Baldwin said.

“Every child is different – one may bounce cheerfully through a major event like a natural disaster, while another will need a lot of reassurance and support. Playing a therapeutic game or reading a story with a caring adult can help a young child work through distressing experiences and ‘big feelings’.”

If you have any concerns about your child’s mental health or emotional wellbeing after severe weather or any distressing experience, please speak to your GP or local Child and Youth Mental Health Service.

Birdie’s Tree was developed by the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, part of Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service.