Kids are highly inquisitive. In our rapidly changing world, news and information are easily accessible. Children will eventually be exposed to media that reports on violence and terrorism. When this happens, they will likely be curious and have questions. For parents, carers and teachers, this is an opportunity to support children to feel more secure and develop a stronger understanding of the world they live in. While parents are usually the best judge of how to respond to their own children, here are some practical tips to talk to children when they have questions about terror and violence reported in the media:
• Provide an open and supportive environment where questions can be asked. Do not force them to discuss violence or terrorism as this may incite fear. Rather, promote an open environment where discussion is encouraged.
• Be open and honest in how you respond without creating trauma. Children will often know or eventually find out if you are misleading. Also, attempt to correct any misconceptions they may have.
• Normalise their experience and concerns. Acknowledging and validating helps children to learn that their emotions and feelings are important.
• Reassure them and support them to feel safe.
• Be aware of your own dialogue and emotional reactions around children. Children learn from social observation. They will absorb the fears and emotions you display.
• Do your best to monitor and minimise exposure to media, TV shows and movies which display violent and terror acts.
• Avoid stereotyping and discriminating groups, nationalities and religions. Use their curiosity to promote tolerance.
Terrorism and violence are often difficult to comprehend for adults. It is therefore reasonable to think that these issues may create uncertainty, stress and anxiety for kids. By showing support in a caring and consistent manner, kids will generally adapt and live their lives as kids without being affected by violence and terrorism reported in the media. That being said, it is important to be aware that a child’s level of resilience and ability to deal with these issues will depend on their age, experience with trauma, developmental level, and personality. If you notice any major and persistent change in their behaviour or emotions, endeavour to speak with a mental health professional.