How to Help Children Cope with the Manchester Attack
Like many others, when I heard through the media about the attack in Manchester, I felt a sense of emotional distress. Many of the victims are children and young people.
As a parent myself, like many other adults, I am probably experiencing vicarious grief.
Sadly, some of the victims have lost their lives and will never return to their families; and others have suffered injuries which are probably life changing.
After today, their lives have changed forever.
Like any traumatic event, it is important that those affected find support from their friends and families. They need to talk about their experiences. Or not talk about their experiences. Whatever feels comfortable for them.
It would be mistaken to assume that children do not experience anxiety and that they are resilient. They will need support and guidance to help them through the trauma they have experienced as will their parents and other care providers.
Those directly affected are likely to experience a range of emotions. There will be an acute sense of shock, loss, disbelief, anger, sadness. These feelings are likely to last, with some severity, for about four to six weeks.
If those affected continue to experience acute problems after this time, and a significant percentage will continue to feel traumatised, then it is wise to seek professional help. Problems such as not sleeping, not eating, mood swings, flashbacks and other changes in behaviour are common after a post traumatic event.
Seeking professional help provides a space to talk about the sense of loss, devastation and fear. It helps to make sense of what has happened with the aim of finding a way forward.
Winston's Wish, a charity which focuses on children who have lost a parent or sibling, gave this advice following the Westminster terrorist attack earlier this year:
- Talk to children using words they understand; give information to younger children a bit at a time
- Try and encourage children to ask questions
- Answer questions honestly and simply; talking about it won’t make it worse
- Accept that some things can’t be ‘made better’
- Show willingness to talk about difficult things and use this as an opportunity to reassure them
- If children are asking questions, it is a good thing – it shows they trust you and it is better than keeping questions and worries to themselves
- Remember that ‘super parents’ or ‘super teachers’ don’t exist. Just do and say what you can
- Don’t be afraid to show children how you are feeling