Supporting children to comprehend the Christchurch massacre

Mar 19, 2019

Anglicare WA, which supports thousands of WA children through trauma experiences annually, has encouraged parents to talk with their children about the Christchurch terrorist attacks which have saturated both social media and mainstream media since Friday.

Anglicare WA mental health and trauma practice consultant, Dr Katie Carter said it’s normal for parents to want to cocoon children from the terrible news however this may create the risk they’ll hear it first-hand, unfiltered, in the playground or on social media platforms.

“It’s likely that kids will come home from school this week talking about the terrorist attack, or with more traumatic detail than they’ve had access to over the weekend. They may have even been shown some of the terrible footage by tech-savvy students,” explained Dr Carter.

“By sharing age-appropriate information that might be upsetting, but in a planned and supported way, it offers a realistic approach to assist children to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life.”

Dr Carter provided the following steps to assist parents broach the topic with their children, without risking their mental wellbeing, no matter their age:

  • Reassure your child that they are personally safe and there’s no risk to them
  • Children are unique. Tell each child in the way that they’ll understand and cope with
  • Vary the information to suit each child’s age and development
  • Be selective with the type of coverage that you let your child see. Don’t have the television or radio on with rolling coverage. That’s not good for anyone.
  • For a young child, a simple explanation will be sufficient, without the visuals
  • For older children and teenagers, it may be appropriate for them to watch or listen to media coverage BUT be there with them as they watch and interpret the story.
  • If your child is on social media, it is vital to inform them of the graphic footage that is being shared online and to discuss appropriate responses should they come across it
  • Answer your child’s questions and be prepared for some from left field.
  • If they’re getting preoccupied with the news, find a distraction to help them move on.
  • Spend time together. Often children like an indirect approach and will bring things up with you while playing or reading.
  • Watch for change behaviour, such as sleep routines, appetite, increased anger, fear or anxiety, and consider seeking help, starting with your GP or child health nurse.

“It’s hard enough as adults to come to terms with the shocking events in Christchurch, so as parents it’s important we are ready and equipped to help children and young people to negotiate news of the tragedy without it affecting their mental wellbeing.”

[ENDS]

Media contact: Emma-Jane Morcombe,
Anglicare WA Media and PR Coordinator,
P: (08) 9263 2039 | M: 0439 272 262 | E: emmajane.morcombe@anglicarewa.org.au

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