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Talking to children about terror attacks

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/05/2017

Helping children manage their emotions after a terrorist attack is more realistic than trying to shield them completely from what has happened, a Massey University psychologist says.

Associate Professor Sarb Johal, a trauma specialist, says people have asked him about how to talk to young people about the deadly Manchester Arena bombing, and whether to mention it at all.

He says children take their cue from parents and caregivers about how to react to a situation.

"It's important parents help children identify their emotions," he said.

"When kids are feeling fearful or anxious, it's okay to distract them for a while, but it's also equally valid to acknowledge that, help them to name that and help them to deal with that."

Assoc Prof Johal also said repeated exposure to imagery and audio descriptions of the incident could increase the risk of anxiety.

"So, minimising this is a good idea, without burying your head in the sand," he said.

"Completely shielding yourself or children is probably unrealistic in today's world. It's better that you're there to help them manage their emotions rather than your kids hearing about it when no adults are around to support them."

He said helpful things to say included pointing out how rare such incidents were.

"And try not to change your routines or plans to go to events."

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