In the wake of the terror attack in Manchester, which was even more horrifying as it seemed to target children, many parents are left lost as to what to say to their kids and how to say it. Parents left with a strong emotional reaction themselves, are having to do an emotional juggling act between the strong natural urge to protect their children and the need to not let the terrorists win. At Grief Recovery we know that the definition of grief sums this up: "Grief is the conflicting feelings following a change or end in a familiar pattern of behaviour." So having acknoweldged that what you and your kids is experiencing is grief here are some practical tips to help you address this. 
How to talk to kids about terror attacks

How to talk to kids about terror attacks 

Remember everyone and every experience is unique so there is no magic set of words that are appropriate for everybody. 
Kids are people too. The guidelines are the same no matter what age of person you are talking to. The only thing that changes is age appropriate language. 
It is important to acknowledge that sad, anxious, painful feelings are real and are the completely normal and natural response to loss of any kind. In these circumstances, there may be a range of losses including loss of sense of safety. This means that when your child expresses their fears or anxieties it is important allow them to fully express those fears uninterrupted rather than cutting them off in your rush to help them feel better. When they have finished, let them know that what they are feeling is completely normal and natural after hearing/seeing such awful news. Then tell the truth about yourself – such as you are also sad / angry / scared too and that you are going to do everything in your power to keep you all safe. Offering reassurance and comfort IS essential. Only then, having acknowledged the emotional (heart) truths, go on to have the intellectual (head) discussion about how while there are some really bad people around that do bad things the chances of it happening to them is really small. 
Don’t be tempted to turn the news off when a news story breaks to try to protect them. Other children at school will have seen it, social media spreads information that many kids have access to so all that will happen is they hear about events 2nd, 3rd or 4th hand probably massively distorted. By allowing them to hear the news you can have a controlled discussion about it. 
If you’re not sure whether your child has heard the news start the conversation yourself to give them an opportunity to ask questions about it of you. Asking them “what have they heard?” even if you know they’ve seen the news will also give you a chance to find out if they have also picked up misinformation along the way. 
It is also important to teach children how to identify reliable news sources so they can learn the facts about events rather than buy into and even spread fake news. While we may or may not agree with the spin traditional news sources place on events they are beholden to check their facts. A lot of material spread via social media is outright fiction, more contains a lot of lies mixed with an element of truth the make it seem plausible. 
Do limit the exposure to the news. With young children, this is fairly easy to achieve. With older kids and teens who have access to phones and tablets explaining that repeatedly watching news of tragedy isn’t healthy and it’s a good idea to take breaks from it. 
The quote from Mr Rogers “Look for the helpers” has been widely circulated and is good advice. As well as news about the awful events there will be stories of acts of kindness and help given. Ensuring our kids hear and look out for these stories will help in achieving the balance between being aware and cautious that the world can be a dangerous place and that it is also filled with kind loving people. 
The book When Children Grieve,by the authors of The Grief Recovery Handbook John W James & Russell Friedman, is available for those who would like explore this topic and learn more on their own.  
You may also want to learn more about our Helping Children with Loss programmes, offered for teachers and parents who want to assist a child in their care through a loss of any kind. 
About the Author 
Carole Henderson
Carole Henderson is Managing Director and Senior Trainer at Grief Recovery Europe and was the first-ever Grief Recovery trainer in the UK. Since 2010 she has trained hundreds of Specialists from over 30 different countries to help others move beyond loss. She has been featured in The Guardian, the Times Educational Supplement (TES), Jeremy Vine, The Sun and numerous other publications.  
Share this post:

Leave a comment: 

Our site uses cookies. For more information, see our cookie policy. Accept cookies and close
Reject cookies Manage settings