For us – as adults – terrible events such as the one that took place in Manchester are difficult to process.
Understanding is a significant challenge.
Young people and children can find the confusion even greater at times such as these.
Their anxieties may be amplified and their fears may suddenly surface.
Parents (and other adults) can find it tough to explain such things to children for how can such things be explained?
Despite such difficulties, talking is so important.
Our instincts might be to shield and protect and keep such occurrences from them, but children have never been so aware of the media on and they’ll find out from somewhere.
From an unexpected bulletin on the radio.
From a newspaper left lying around.
From talk and rumours in the playground or classroom. From the general mood in the subsequent days.
They’ll find out and some will fret.
Indeed, to be denied proper information can make such situations even more worrisome.
Yes it’s difficult, but our advice is to confront the subject head on at the pace your child wants to take it.
Be open . Avoid evasion. Be honest, but not brutally so.
Keep calm. Offer reassurance and comfort. The calmer and more reassuring you are as an adult, the calmer your child will feel.
Underline that such stories are prominent on the news because they’re so rare and do not happen often.
Stress that such a thing is very unlikely to ever happen to them or to anyone in their immediate circle.
This attack is even harder to compute than most because young people, children and families are not threatening anyone, and also it feels so close to home.
The attack is anxiety provoking for some because these are things – going out, enjoying a concert, having fun with friends and family members – that, as children and adults alike, we understand and identify with.
We can all picture ourselves at places such as the Manchester Arena . . .
This being the case, it is little wonder that what has happened can prove so troubling.
The best message to give?
That it’s normal to feel sad, worried and upset. That such events do make us anxious, confused and fearful. For a month or so some children may have poor sleep or be clingy. They may have a range of mild symptoms like tummy ache or want to miss school. In the first month as a parent don’t panic. Offer calm reassurance. It is unlikely that a child will need to see a therapist so soon. But answer any questions calmly and simply.
Talk it through and then put it to one side . . .
Surround yourselves with nice things and do something that makes you all happy. Get on with normal life, and don’t avoid doing what you would normally do. Get on with normal routines.
Read a book. Walk the dog. Kick a football around. Go outside and enjoy the sunshine.
Switch off computers, televisions and tablets.
Give social media a miss for a while.
If after a month symptoms persist then talk it through and consider seeing your GP. Give us a call at Child Psychiatry UK. We can offer advice and the right level and type of therapy when it is needed.
How we deal with such events is something that we can control.