Many of us have had to ask ourselves how to help our children cope with the news of random violence and terrorist attacks. So here are seven tips to help the whole family feel better:
1) Look after yourself first. If you feel upset or scared, take a little time to change your state of mind and become grounded again. For example you could do some slow breathing, a short visualisation or have a lovely hot bath. Try to create a feeling of trust, despite it all. Remember, the likelihood of being caught up in an attack is still extremely small, and choosing trust creates the healing we all need.
2) Be truthful. Talk about it with your children in simple terms without pessimism or despair. Emphasise the fact that the attackers were few and the helpers were many. Remind your child that most people have a good heart and want to help others.
3) Take their fears seriously. If they need to share wobbly feelings, offer empathy and acknowledgement. Take time to listen to their fears and make space for what they’re expressing.
4) Avoid news reports on the topic. This is perhaps obvious, but radio and TV reports from terror scenes literally recreating the fear and drama in your home.
5) Create safety. Speak to your child about how safe he or she is right now, with you, in your home. Reassure them that, although this thing has happened, your family is safe and your life is continuing as before. If younger children are scared, you can create a web of security around them by reminding them of all the people around them who love them. You can say things like: “Grandma’s love is all around you, keeping you safe”, as if wrapping your child in a cocoon of love and safety.
6) Facts and figures. For older children, get some facts and figures that show how incredibly tiny the chance is of ever being involved in an event like this.
7) Remember that your actions speak too. Each of us has to decide for ourselves how we handle the risk of being involved in a terror event. What we finally decide gives children information about their lives. So if we choose to stay at home, this tells them that we believe it’s not safe to go out. I have felt the fear – and decided to let my son go to events in London and Manchester all the same. I feel this communicates that we are safe. I choose to believe that we are safe, because the statistics tell me the risk is very small and this attitude supports me to live well and be happy – which is what I want for myself and my family.
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