Understanding the impact

Understanding the impacts of bushfire and other natural disasters

As leaders and educators in early childhood settings it is important to understand how you can help to restore a sense of safety and security after a natural disaster. Educators can draw on their existing knowledge of child development to understand the potential social, emotional and physical responses that young children may have.

Children can be particularly vulnerable because of the ways they process complex and frightening information. As advocates for children it is essential to understand and communicate  how events can undermine a child’s sense of safety and security, and how this can result in all sorts of changes in a child’s behaviour, which can sometimes be surprising and persistent.

Understanding children’s responses

Responses to disaster | Behaviours | How children process disasters | Understanding all children | Predictable responses | The disengaged child | Why young children are vulnerable to natural disasters

Short and long-term impacts

Typical responses expected from children | Potential impacts | Impact on safety and security | Responding to children in the short term: Educators & program | Typical responses | Description of longer terms impacts for children

Assessing progress

Ongoing concerns | Assessing progress | Supporting children new to the service | Observing play as assessment

Awareness of re-exposure to stressful experiences and anxiety triggers

Re-exposing a child to distressing stimuli | Restoring a sense of safety and security | Vicarious exposure


Raising Children NetworkThe Australian Parenting Website provides information suitable for supporting 3 to 15-year-old children coping with trauma in the days and weeks after an event

birds eye view of 2 children playing with blocks

Be You, Beyond Blue is a free mental health initiative for educators which aims to promote and protect positive mental health in children. You may be familiar with KidsMatter as the predecessor of Be You. Be You requires all educators to register as an individual to start the journey, however a team leader can implement a service level learning community with the help of a Be You consultant. Engaging with professional learning and support can build the capacity of your team to respond to ongoing trauma.


Be You provides readily accessible information on the Impact of natural disasters on mental health page. Trauma and grief responses for children along with the signs to look for with fact sheets could be useful:

NESA endorsed

Photo of Child and Adult walking on log with gum boots

Emerging Minds Community Trauma Toolkit is an interactive website that contains user friendly and research based strategies for educators, parents or first aid responders. A series of short videos, podcasts and factsheets are provided for parents and educators on to prepare, respond and recover from trauma: This is a comprehensive resource that enables you to easily access information that is relevant to you

You may already be able to see the impacts of stress on children’s behaviour, where they do not settle and are unable to regulate their feelings and behaviour in the early childhood service. Supporting children’s self-regulation (PRSIST) is a free web based program that provides a collection of professional learning videos (PRSIST talks), adult practices, routines and home connections that support the development of self-regulation. This is self-paced and NESA approved quality professional learning that has the potential to have significant impacts on understanding and supporting children’s behaviour. 

Children painting on easels in a preschool setting