Regional kids are struggling to recover from catastrophic floods that displaced families and interrupted education.
Some kids are lashing out, others are struggling to focus, and some children are checking the Bureau of Meteorology before they go to school to make sure it isn't raining.
A new program delivered in schools and preschools aims to facilitate community recovery by supporting kids to process their emotions after being caught up in natural disasters.
Flood trauma lingers
Royal Far West clinicians are working in 30 schools and pre-schools as part of the Federally funded Community Recovery Program in NSW Northern Rivers and Southeast Queensland.
Royal Far West ceo Jaqueline Emery said floods are unique because of the destruction they wrought.
"Flood disasters require a slightly different approach to bushfires. In a flood, everything goes," she said.
"So what we're finding is people are displaced from their homes for a longer period of time. All of those things that help rebuild children's resilience and sense of safety come from things like being able to go to the park and all those kind of normal routines."
Clinicians reported that children are struggling with psychological impacts of seeing their homes, toys and precious belongings destroyed or damaged, moving somewhere new and seeing their parents or caregivers upset and stressed.
In the early months of 2022, eastern Australia endured three intense weather systems that led to record rains and flooding. By the end of the first week in March, Southern Queensland and parts of New South Wales had each received more than a year's worth of rainfall.
And primary school kids may be struggling to recover more than their older peers.
A survey of more than 6000 children and young people from 75 Northern Rivers schools found that 40 per cent of all primary students were at risk of trauma-related stress, while rates were lower for secondary kids.
Lismore Public School principal Samantha Rowsell said the program was benefitting staff and students to navigate mental wellbeing in the wake of the floods.
"Royal Far West spent a week at our school to build professional, trusting relationships with our parents, students and staff. This has enabled support to be specifically tailored to our unique context. All our stakeholders are looking forward to continuing our wellbeing journey with RFW over the next two years," she said.
Climate anxiety on the rise
A recent YouGov poll found that climate anxiety is on the rise in young Australians.
It found that most young Australians, 56 per cent, say they have become more concerned about climate change in the past 12 months and only six per cent of young people surveyed said they were not concerned at all.
IN OTHER NEWS:
With experts sounding the alarm for a severe fire season ahead, Ms Emery said the program will equip kids and parents with the tools to cope with future natural disaster events.
"These disasters will become more frequent and more severe. And we really need to wrap around these communities and give them support," she said.