The world is reeling from yet another terrorist attack – this time in Manchester, England, where children were among the 22 victims of a suicide bombing at the Ariana Grande concert.
News of the attack has been playing non-stop on TV and radio, covering newspapers and flooding social media so it’s almost inevitable that children will hear about it.
Although as parents we might wish we didn’t have to talk about such a senseless attack on innocent children, it’s a necessary conversation to have.
According to Dr Fiona Martin from the Sydney Child Psychology Centre children actually realise a lot more than they let on.
“When something like this happens everyone panics so as parents it’s important to keep to a routine, comfort and support your children and let them express their feelings, let them draw, let them lead and let them talk about it,” Dr Martin tells Be.
Many parents don’t want to scare their children but it’s natural for them to be curious about what they’ve heard and ask questions.
“Don’t flood them with visions or anything but they will know what’s happening, they know more than we think,” she says.
“Kids are very black and white so you can use phrases like the 'good' and 'bad' people, and 'rare occurrence'. But it’s important not to lie to them.”
The modern news cycle is brutal with information being shared 24/7 so it’s not uncommon these days for young children to be exposed to the news, no matter how much parents try to protect them.
“As parents, we need to validate their feelings and emotions by asking them open-ended questions,” Dr Martin told The Daily Edition.
“It’s very difficult to filter the news and violence isn’t good for children to watch because it can have long-lasting effects on them.”
She says it’s important to talk to your children in an age appropriate way.
“Children are egocentric so you need to explain things from their perspective. They want to know they’re safe, so reassure them,” she says.
“Don’t talk about religion or politics with younger children, maybe only teens and older children so they can start to process why it happened.”
Parents might be tempted to try and hide what’s happened from their children all together, but Dr Martin says this is one of the worst things you can do.
“It’s important for children to know what’s going on but for parents to explain it in a child-friendly manner. They will go to school and their friends will be talking about this so they will find out one way or another. It’s important that we don’t pretend that it didn’t happen. That’s not ok.”
She also says that parents need to be aware that they aren’t modelling poor coping skills, because children will react to seeing their parent scared or anxious.