Australia is a continent of stark contrasts in weather. Hot, dry spells can be broken quickly with flooding rains. And long wets can be just as easily followed by a dry drought.
The agricultural sector's seasonal success depends on good management, technology, and the weather. Farmers live by weather forecasts to determine the best time to plant crops, harvest, buy and sell livestock, and more. Unfortunately, the devastating floods and flooding rains that are occurring over much of the highly productive agricultural land in Australia at the moment are having disastrous consequences for farmers, which in turn will flow onto consumers when they visit the supermarket in days, weeks, and months to come.
But this is agriculture. It's a gamble — and farmers will continue to work in this somewhat unpredictable environment because they love what they do.
For children, seeing a lot of water lying around, hearing the deafening sound of torrential rain, watching the water rise, and witnessing the devastation happening in many towns around Australia can be scary. Not to mention the trauma experienced by those children who are evacuated from their homes.
It's normal for kids to show concern during these times, but it's important to know that their worry can be shown in many different ways such as:
- complaints about physical health (for example, sore tummy or headaches)
- fear that something bad will happen to themselves or primary caregiver/s
- difficulties separating from primary caregiver/s and/or extreme clinginess
- nightmares and difficulty sleeping alone
- changes in thinking, slowed thought process
- withdrawal from normal activities, friends and social situations
- isolation (spending more time in their room or alone)
- new awareness of death and mortality
- difficulty talking about traumatic events
- decline in educational functioning, concentration and poor learning outcomes
- recounting negative events in play and stories
- appearing more alert and watchful for signs of danger.
Children look to adults to see how they should feel and react in times of uncertainty. As much as possible, it's important to stay calm and encourage kids to talk about their feelings.
Here are some tips to support the kids in your life:
- Let your children ask questions. Be honest with your answers while being mindful of how much information you offer.
- Assist your kids in working out precisely what they're concerned about — are they worried for their animals, friends, home?
If you're not directly affected by the floods and are able to, consider having your children:
- Ring family or friends who may be affected by the floods directly to check in on them and say hello;
- Write a letter or draw a picture to send to people affected by the floods, including farmers;
- Donate goods, money or volunteer time to help. A couple of our recommended charities on the ground in regional Australia include Fiver for a Farmer and Foodbank.
Resources for children to learn about weather events
Some great resources which also help children in understanding floods and other natural disasters, along with the impact on agriculture and comumunities include:
- George the Farmer Beef Bonanza
When the Farmer family heads north for the biggest beef show in the Southern Hemisphere floods threaten their road trip. Will they make it to the show on time? This story of mateship is set around floods occuring in central New South Wales, particularly Moree.
- George the Farmer Hailstorm Heroes
A freak hailstorm puts the season’s apple harvest under a cloud of uncertainty. Will the fruit go to waste? This story of community spirit has underlying themes of creativity and entrepreneurship.
- Sesame Street's, Sesame Workshop
A series of videos featuring Sesame characters talking about common questions that pop up after a disaster and possible ways to respond.
- Why do floods happen?
A simple animated video explaining how flooding can occur.
For more support in speaking with your children, please consider the following resources: