“Mom, why is the sky orange?”
“Mama, why does it stink outside?”
“Mom, do we need to leave our house?”
As a mama to seven in a county full of raging wildfires, those were just a few of the questions I’ve fielded. We have had quite a few conversations over the last few days, so I decided to share some of my insights on talking wildfires with kids with you.
1. Don’t try to hide the truth from the children
Smoke outside is kind of impossible to hide. They will notice. They will ask. Don’t lie. That’s rule number one in difficult conversations with children. Be truthful!
2. Not every child needs the same explanation
Simon (2), Sydney (3) and our disabled Owen (9) are fine just knowing that there are fires burning close by and that we need to pray for the firefighters and our neighbors. We tell them it’ll be okay, and that God has a perfect plan for our lives.
Ellie (5) and Jeffrey (6) are ready for a little bit more. They can handle some heavier news, that there is a chance the fire can blow over this way, or a new one could start, and that there are things we can do to be prepared.
Jayme (13) and I have had many deep conversations about fears and concerns. She’s old enough to read the paper that she fetches every morning, and is very aware of the extreme fire danger. Honesty and prayer are needed to guide these conversations. She needs the truth, and more in-depth explanations than her little siblings, but she doesn’t need all of the gory details that would cause extreme worry.
You know your children. Give them the information they can handle and are ready for.
3. Talk about what needs done
We sat down today and made a checklist. Jayme wrote and Jeff, Ellie and Sydney took turns drawing pictures. Right now, I told them that we are pre-level 1. That means the fire is close (across the highway still), but that we are not in immediate danger. It is the time for basic preparations.
Writing down action steps for each phase of evacuations helps the little ones have a better idea of the game plan. They know what to expect, and how they can help.
Kids WANT to help. They need to feel useful, as a member of the family. There are plenty of jobs in an evacuation prep that they can help with. My kids each picked out an outfit, some pajamas and a few toys to put in a bag on the bus.
That’s one less thing we have to deal with if we need to go.
4. Answer their questions
As mentioned earlier, kids ask a lot of questions, especially when they are feeling unsure or scared. Answer them truthfully, to the best of your ability. It’s okay to say that you don’t know. It’s okay to say, let’s look that up or let’s ask someone.
5. Pray together
I’ve found this has helped my kids a lot. We pray for the firefighters. We pray for rain. We pray for the families that have lost houses or buildings. We know that God hears us, and we turn to Him often.
How about you? Any tips for hard discussions that you can add?
Are there any fires in your neck of the woods? Have you had to talk wildfires with kids recently?