A couple of weeks ago, we were driving on the highway and came up to a vehicle that was on fire.
We were one of the first to pass by, emergency crews weren’t there yet but there were civilians up on a rock cut on their phones-assumingely with a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
Traffic slowed just before the flames so we could all merge into the other lane.
My two Little Bears were in the backseat, talking a mile-a-minute about the smoke and how high the fire was-“Mommy it’s as big as the CN tower” (not even close). As we passed the vehicle, the entire front end was engulfed. I looked in my rear-view mirror to my biggest Little Bear, his eyes as wide as saucers, his mouth open in shock, the other one had taken a quick glance and went back to looking at her My Little Pony book. We were all silent….for a short period of time.
About a minute down the road, my son began to talk, his words shot from his mouth so fast and furious about what he just saw. Trying to process every detail and ask every question in his mind that was now super anxious and racing (I Know that feeling all too well). His questions started with fire in general, then about vehicle fires, then about house fires and safety and our safety and all the “what if’s” that his brain could possibly muster.
I *think* I did my best to answer his questions, my husband jumped in to help once we were home and he had discussed it again. I thought we had put it to bed with reassurance that we are prepared in the event of an emergency and that we’d be ok.
Fast forward a week and he began having a hard time sleeping-he was still processing. I spoke with his counselor and together we agreed that a visit to our local fire station may be a good idea. I connected with our local Fire Safety/fire prevention officer and away we went.
We’ve been to the fire station many times before, but this time-for our biggest Little Bear, was different. At his age and stage of development he’s beginning to realize that we are all mortal beings, that life is precious and that accidents and emergencies can happen and sometimes the outcomes are sad and death can occur to people he loves.
This was the perfect opportunity for him to speak with a professional, one who empowers people to be brave and have courage, to be vigilant and practice safety and most of all-answer the 102 questions that our son had. The whole time we were there, he didn’t stop talking. He played out all of (I think?) the “what if” scenarios in his brain and got the answers he needed to put his heart at ease.
When we left, I looked back in my rear-view mirror again and this time I saw his smiling face and the sparkle in his eyes. He caught my glance and said “I love you Mom, thanks for taking me, I feel so much better!”….in that moment, I felt like I had won parenting (at least for that moment.)
That night over dinner, our family agreed to do up a fire escape safety plan and buy a couple more fire extinguishers and practice fire safety prevention in our home and vehicle. We gave our son the important job of helping us test the smoke detectors, empty the dryer lint traps and help to draw a blue print for the evacuation plan.
I’ve learned that with our anxious Bear, if he has a leadership type role when his mind is anxious, it helps him to focus on the goal instead of all the scenarios.
Overall, this experience has reminded me, that the world can be incredibly overwhelming for children. They’re often exposed to so much information and have difficulty processing it all that it becomes overwhelming; even as an adult this still happens to me.
Be patient, do your best to help your Little Bears work through these overwhelming times. If you need additional help or resources, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional. Knowledge is empowering and takes the guessing game away from anxious brains. 💗