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How To Talk To Children About Traumatic Events In The News: Five Top Tips

24/05/2017 11:26 BST | Updated 24/05/2017 11:26 BST

The horrific recent bombing at the Manchester Arena might mean you are seeking help or support about how to talk to children in your life about highly traumatic events. Here are five top tips.

  1. Be honest. Children pick up on secrets.
  2. Be guided by your child's questions. You don't have to bring up what happened or give loads of detail if they don't ask.
  3. Be available. Give your child plenty of opportunity and time to talk if they want to e.g. bedtime can be a really good time for children to bring up worries. Another primetime slot is when you are driving somewhere. Car journeys are often a good time to talk about serious stuff because you aren't looking at each other and you're often there in the same space for a good while.
  4. Be a good listener. Listen carefully to what your child's worries are. They might not be worried about what you would predict. Listening carefully will show that you are comfortable hearing whatever it is they are worried about. Let your child tell you their feelings and help your child to name those feelings. It can be really comforting for children to have a sense that they and you can label their emotions and that those emotions are understandable and not overwhelming.
  5. Be reassuring. After your child has had the chance to talk about how they feel you might be able to help reassure them about specific worries. E.g. attacks like this are thankfully very rare, and once an attack has happened security is even tighter.

It is really normal for children and young people to experience worry, fear, anger, sadness... all sorts of big emotions in response to hearing about a traumatic event. These are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances. Some children can have nightmares about the traumatic event even though they weren't there.

Talking to friends, family and loved ones can really help and it's good to encourage children to talk about how they are feeling.

Most children find that they are comforted by support from people they know and love and difficulties subside, but if these big feelings persist or nightmares continue for a long time (e.g. a month), and start to really interfere in your child's life, then consider going to see your GP for extra help.

For more information the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Mind and Young Minds all have good resources.