California Fires: Tips and Tools to Uplift Your Family Vibes

Posted on October 12, 2019

It’s that time of the year here in Southern California. Those of us who have spent a lifetime here can feel the fear in the air the minute the winds kick up to horrendous speeds. The smell of smoke and the sounds of sirens, helicopters, and fire-fighting aircraft just add to the angst. With eight fires currently active, more than 100,000 people have been evacuated, several school districts are closed, and workplaces are reduced to skeleton crews. With just a few degrees of separation—and sometimes none—everyone is being affected.

Yesterday I left my home in Santa Clarita to run some errands and couldn’t escape the conversations every place I stopped. It’s interesting to observe human nature when we are pulled out of our routines at work or home and have the children with us on a school day. I got a few smiles and hellos, but mostly there was an underlying tone of fear. It’s hard to see our homes or those of relatives or friends possibly in jeopardy. When you add kids to the mix, the fear bubble gets larger.

As an advocate of mindful parenting, I feel compelled to share a few timeless tools that have served me well in the past, when my children were little and a fire or a fire scare was at hand.

  1. Stay indoors and stay calm: Fire marshals and other authorities are on every media urging the public to stay at home if at all possible. This keeps the roads and freeways clear for fire trucks, firemen, and those who are working around the clock to keep us safe. When indoors, take charge of the emotional temperature at home. Manage yourself first, so you can set the tone for your children, family, and pets.
  2. Curb your media appetite: Unless it’s absolutely necessary—if you or a loved one are in danger—keep your TV and mobile-device usage to a minimum. The more fear-based data you have flowing through the air in your home, the more challenging it is to manage emotions. If you are not in a danger zone, have an auto-message ready to go to answer the wishes of goodwill that you will be getting. Mine is: Thanks so much for your concern. We are well and safe. If your children are home, it’s okay to add: Kids are home. Will connect with you soon. Add an emoji at the end as an expression of love or gratitude or both.
  3. Keep the lines of communication open: Know that children’s senses are highly developed. They know or can sense that fear is in the air. If they are old enough, talk to them about fire danger and safety measures BUT in a tone that delivers information and not emotion. If you are feeling afraid, your children will start to mirror your emotions. So again, check your own emotional thermostat before you talk to your children. Reassure yourself first that all will be well, but definitely be prepared with the necessary safety steps for yourself and your family. I know it’s a fine line and tough to do, but if you’re wound up, you cannot support or communicate effectively with your children. If you have a tendency to be emotionally expressive, please do not get on social media platforms and add fuel to your internal fire—no pun intended. This will only make it worse.
  4. Uplift the vibes in your home: Get creative, pull out those board games, play some soothing background music, order a pizza, and hang out with your kids. This might be a great time to pull out some joke books or even catch up on some family reading. When my kids were little, I used to take “breath breaks” every hour. I would round them up in the family room at the turn of every hour, and we would all take five deep breaths, raising our arms up with an inhale and back down with an exhale. It helped reset their internal emotional compasses back to calm—and, most importantly, my own as well. More often than not, one of my kids would say, “This is stupid but it really works,” and we would all break out into laughter!

Harry Truman said, “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” While the brave firefighters are courageously and with unbeatable determination tackling the job at hand, we can help and support them by first following their directions and then by using our imagination to send more courageous vibes their way. As a family, hold hands, close your eyes, and fill your hearts with feelings of courage and gratitude, then blow the thoughts their way. Believe me, the strong wind will carry it to them … fast.