An estimated 10 per cent of kids and teenagers living in Mackay and the Whitsundays are likely to have experienced severe and ongoing post-traumatic distress after Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit the region in March last year.
Based on data from previous mental health disaster responses in Australia, it’s estimated a further 20 per cent of young residents may have experienced moderate symptoms of distress.
Triple P founder Professor Matt Sanders – who is in Mackay, Proserpine and Cannonvale this week to present free Raising resilient children seminars to local parents said research shows a positive parenting style is a key factor in helping most kids bounce back from disaster¹.
“Children look to the adults in their lives to see how to react to situations and problems, so parents who can demonstrate a positive, coping attitude in times of stress are modelling to their kids what resilience looks like, which is a very powerful teacher of behaviour,” he said.
Professor Sanders’ seminars will arm parents with evidence-based tips and strategies to help build up their own emotional resilience and coping skills, so they can model a positive approach to life to their kids.
Parents will learn how to teach children to express feelings appropriately, think positive, develop effective ways of coping, deal with negative feelings, manage stressful life events and recognise and accept feelings.
TRAPS TO AVOID
Triple P’s research also identified certain parent and family behaviour that can make children more vulnerable to mental health problems following a natural disaster.
“There are some traps to avoid after there’s been a traumatic event in a child’s life, such as allowing unrestricted access to media coverage about the event, or perhaps talking too much or too little about what’s happened,” Professor Sanders said.
“Whatever challenges lie ahead for our kids, as parents we can all become better informed about the best way to support them and build their resilience to deal with all kinds of stressful events and situations.”
Toni Marie Strange from the George Street Neighbourhood Centre’s Community Recovery Team in Mackay said many people in the region are still not back on their feet after Cyclone Debbie.
“Along with other agencies offering disaster recovery support, our team is still providing people and families with financial assistance and emotional support on a weekly basis,” Ms Strange said.
“While many of the families affected by flooding and cyclone damage are now back in their homes, there are still unplanned bills coming in, extra stress on relationships, general disruption to family life and in some cases children in distress to deal with.”
Triple P founder Professor Matt Sanders will deliver four free seminars this week:
- Monday May 21 (6.45pm to 8.15pm):
St Francis Catholic Primary School (Mackay)
- Tuesday May 22 (6pm to 7.30pm):
Proserpine State School
- Wednesday May 23 (6pm to 7.30pm):
Cannonvale State School
- Thursday May 24 (6.30pm to 8pm):
Mackay North High School
The seminars are open to parents of children aged up to 12 years and are made possible by a Queensland Government inititiative to support families.
To register click on one of the links above.
¹Cobham, V.E., McDermott, B., Haslam, D., & Sanders, M.R. (2016). The role of parents, parenting and the family environment in children’s post-disaster mental health. Current Psychiatry Reports, 18(6), 53- 62. doi: 10.1007/s11920-016-0691-4