Helping your child cope with media coverage of traumatic events
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A year ago, terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris and Baghdad claimed nearly 200 lives in the space of just two days. Months before, a heart-breaking picture of three-year-old Alan Kurdi made headlines after the little boy’s body was washed up on a Mediterranean beach as his family tried to flee the fighting in Syria.
With blanket coverage of such incidents now common online, as well as graphic images being shown on the front pages of newspapers and on daily news bulletins, even very young children are being exposed to upsetting and traumatic information. How can parents help them cope?
By Eleanor Levy
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: Engaging Schools
2. Reassure them when they want to talk
Tell them: ‘Remember that worrying stories are often in the news because they are rare - they don't happen very often.’
Read more: BBC Newsround
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: National Association of School Psychologists
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: NHS
5. Listen to their views
Older children and teens: ‘By this age, they 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: Parent Zone
The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or CEOP.