How to talk to children about terrorist attacks

Although nobody wants to scare their children with the serious reality that is terrorism, it is important they have an understanding of what is going on in the world around them. So what should you tell your child?

Children are exposed to news in many ways, and what they see can worry them. After any attack it’s very likely that your child will hear about what happened, and it’s best that it comes from you so that you are able to answer any questions, convey the facts, and set the emotional tone.

Winston’s Wish, a charity for bereaved children, published a list of ‘things to remember’ when having a conversation like this.

They say it’s important not to use euphemisms about death because children need to know that they can talk openly about upsetting things.

The charity suggested telling children something similar to:

“When someone is shot or stabbed, a bullet or blade goes into their body and causes them to bleed a lot. Our bodies need blood to make all the parts, like the heart and brain, work properly. If someone loses too much blood, their body stops working and they die.”

Children might be worried that you or someone else they know might die in a similar incident. If that is the case, you can reassure them first how unlikely this is. Explain to them that if such a thing were to happen, they would be cared for, by a parent, aunts or uncles, grandparent or other guardians – and reassure them that you don’t expect to die for a long time yet.

The NSPCC have released advice to help you to have those difficult those conversations with your little ones:

Listen carefully to a child’s fears and worries

It’s crucial to make sure their concerns are heard and not dismissed – once you know what they’re worried about, you can understand. Don’t shy away from a conversation on a difficult subject, be truthful, don’t make up lies or skirt around the reality of the situation. Explain that these events are rare and each day more and more action plans are being put into place to prevent them from happening in the future.

Acknowledge their fears instead of making them feel silly for being afraid.

Offer reassurance and comfort                    

The NSPCC advises avoiding complicated and worrying explanations that could leave children more frightened and confused – instead, reassure and comfort them. Give them a hug and tell them that you will always be there to protect them and to keep them out of harm’s way.

It’s important to remind children that they’re safe and surrounded by security.

Help them find advice and support

Older children can find it easier to understand distressing events and feelings by talking to services such as Childline, which is free, confidential and available 24/7.


Posted in: Safety