Talking to youth about the Manchester bombing

How do you talk to children and youth about world events like the Manchester bombing?

If you’ve watched the news lately, you know there is a lot going on in our world, some of it is good and some terrible. The Manchester bombing may have children and youth questioning their safety at public events. This event can be particularly scary for children and youth because so many young adults were targets of the violence. It is important adults talk with youth about what is happening so they can understand and feel safe and supported.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following.

  • Understand your own feelings and fears. It’s helpful to know what your own fears and feelings are about the bombing so you can communicate those to your child as you are talking to them about the event. It’s also helpful to identify your fears so you aren’t making decisions based on fear, such as not letting your child attend a public event.
  • Start the conversation. It might be hard to know where to start, but starting the conversation is the first step. Staying silent and trying to shield your child from what’s happening might make things worse because they won’t know what is happening or are finding out information from other people, which may increase their fear or uncertainty.
  • Ask your child what they already know or have heard from others. It’s important during this time you listen to what they are saying, but also their fears or concerns.
  • As you listen to your child, gently correct any inaccurate or misinformation. Find out where they are getting their information so you know if it’s credible. Make sure what you share is age-appropriate.
  • Let them direct the conversation. Listen to your child’s fears and concerns and validate those feelings. Let them drive the conversations with their questions. If you don’t know the answer, then tell them that and ask what you can do to help answer that question.
  • Limit media exposure. In our world of 24/7 instant media coverage, it will be important to limit the amount of media coverage. Young children should not be exposed to media coverage because it’s too hard to know what will be shown, and re-watching coverage over and over again can be traumatizing
  • Understand common reactions. Children may be distracted or worried about the event that happened or may want to be near loved ones more often. Know these are common reactions and should be supported as much as possible to help children work through their feelings.
  • Be a role model and talk about your feelings about the event at a level they can understand. Talk about the helpers involved so children can see the good in any bad event.
  • Be patient. Remember that children get stressed just like adults so you may need a little extra patience as children try to process what is happening. They may act out, need extra support or may not tell you what they need at all, so be sure to check in with children and support them as they need it.
  • Reassure children. Although you can’t promise nothing bad will ever happen, you can reassure them that these occurrences are rare and there are safety measures in place when they go out to events. Talk about those safety measures and come up with an emergency plan as a family.
  • Follow through. Don’t cancel public plans out of fear. Allow attendance at events, but talk about safety measures and put a plan in place for emergencies.
  • Reach out for help if you think your child’s reactions are continuing or are interfering with their ability to function. Contact your local health provider or other organizations that can help children deal with trauma or grief.

We live in an instant news world and we need to be able to talk with children about current events so they can feel safe and secure.

For more ideas about activities and articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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