Helping your child cope with media coverage of traumatic events

Terrorism and trauma helping children cope

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Parent Zone editor Eleanor Levy shares five ways parents can help children cope with upsetting news stories.

With blanket coverage of terrorist attacks online, as well as graphic images being shown on the front pages of newspapers and on daily news bulletins of tragedies around the world, even very young children are exposed to upsetting and traumatic information. 


1. Create space to communicate

‘Most children from age four to five and above would appreciate talking with adults they trust. In the media there is daily discussion of difficult topics, and it is likely that children know about them.

‘However, it is also quite likely that they have some confusion about the facts and the magnitude of the danger they personally face. Younger children often combine facts and connect them to their own experiences in surprising ways that can increase their sense of fear, believing for example, “Planes have bombs on TV, so the planes over my house have bombs too.”

‘They often have mistaken information, questions, and some strong feelings. Often children are hesitant to share their questions and fears with adults. For this reason, we recommend that adults create space for children to share their concerns.’

Read more: Talking with you rchild about conflict and war

2. Reassure them when they want to talk

Tell children that worrying stories are often in the news because they are rare and that they don't happen very often.

Read more: Advice if you're upset by the news 

3. Keep things simple

‘Children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that the daily structures of their lives will not change.’

Read more: Helping children cope with terrorism

4. Be honest

‘Try to help your child understand what has happened by giving a truthful explanation that is appropriate for their age. This may help reduce feelings of confusion, anger, sadness and fear.’

Read more: Coping with stress following a major incident 

5. Listen to their views

Older children and teens will most likely be getting information from their own sources, some of which will be unreliable or biased. Listen to their views and encourage them to question what they are reading or hearing.

Read more: Helping children cope with the Paris attacks



The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or CEOP.

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