How to help children
emotionally deal with Manchester terror attack
IN the wake of the recent terror attack in Manchester, a
leading child psychiatrist with Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust is advising
parents on how to emotionally support their children to deal with the shock.
Dr Bernadka Dubicka, a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with the
Trust and also Chair of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the
Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:- "It is normal to feel upset after
Monday night's tragic attack. Such terrible events instil fear and sadness
within all of us. We would not advise hiding your child from what may be on the
news or social media. They will inevitably learn about it from their friends, so
it's best to be honest with them about what has happened. While taking into
consideration the age and sensitivity of your child, let them lead the
conversation. Respond to their questions or concerns, and help them to
understand that although what has happened is awful, these events are extremely
rare. Do not try to force conversations with your child about this, but be there
for them should they wish to talk. Most children and young people will not show
any long term effects from these events. However, a small proportion,
particularly those who have been more directly affected, may show symptoms of
stress and trauma. For example, they may have problems sleeping, concentrating
or may be more anxious. If parents are worried about persistent signs of stress
and trauma in their children, they should contact their GP."
Health professionals from Lancashire Care also understand that people will be
directly or indirectly affected by the attack and that this can lead to very
normal and understandably distressing effects of trauma. Information is
available about what people can expect in the days and weeks after a traumatic
event and where to get additional help if these experiences persist for several
months. The Lancashire Traumatic Stress Service provides further advice and
information which can be found
Also specilist therapists from Barnardo's have put together
advice for families whose children were present at or affected by the attack at
Manchester Arena on Monday, to help their young ones deal with trauma and
emotions they may be experiencing.
Parents and carers may be worried about the best way to help their child in
distress and worry about doing the 'wrong thing,' but whatever the
child's experience, the most effective support they can be given immediately
after an event is often best provided by parents, friends and family members.
Lois Wignall, Manager of Barnardo's Emotional Health and Wellbeing Services in
the North West said:- "If a child or young person has been traumatised
after being at the Arena during Monday's attack, or knows someone close to them
that was, it's important to be aware that it's entirely normal for these young
people to experience distress and difficulties, and this behaviour could well
last for quite a while after the event."
The following reactions and changes in behaviour are a normal part of recovery
and can be expected in the 1st few weeks:-
► Becoming angry, upset or overwhelmed.
► Difficulty sleeping / nightmares.
► Difficulty concentrating and / or problems at School.
► Avoiding activities they used to enjoy.
► Memories or 'flashbacks' to the event.
► Being jumpy, clingy or anxious.
► Not wanting to think or talk about the event.
► Talking excessively about the event or re-enacting it through play.
► Physical complaints like headaches, stomach pain or feeling sick.
► Feelings of survivor guilt.
Also is your child becomes very quiet and or you just feel something is not
correct, it might be due to them being upset.
Sadly children can hide problems so, if you can, keep an eye on what they post
on social media and how they interact with their friends.
Lois explains:- "Young people there in person on Monday will all have had
different experiences and this will impact upon their reactions and resilience
levels; some may have been further away from the attack location but encountered
the panic, some may have witnessed the attack itself or been injured, and
tragically, others may have lost a loved 1. Children and young people can
sometimes start to withdraw from friends, family and situations following
traumatic events. This may make them feel very isolated and alone and will
reduce their opportunities to talk to supportive people about their experience.
Children need to make sense of what has happened to them and by encouraging a
supportive conversation about the facts of the event can really help a child to
The following guidance is aimed to help parents and carers best support their
children through this difficult period:-
► Explanations provided to children and young people need, to be honest and
appropriate for their age; be guided by the questions they ask.
► If they don't appear ready to talk, don't force the situation but do make sure
you continue to provide opportunities for them to talk when they feel ready. If
we don't provide this clear factual information, they may reach their own
conclusions about what has happened or, in the case of older children, seek out
the information via social media and the internet.
► If your child experiences physical changes (they may feel like their heart is
racing or their tummy is upset) or feelings of guilt as they recall pushing past
people in the panic to try and get out of the Arena, they may need some guidance
to understand these are all part of their body's way of dealing with the
overwhelming situation they found themselves in. Explaining to them that their
reactions are to be expected and not unnatural; this was their survival
instincts kicking in and doesn't make them a bad person; may help them. It could
be beneficial to try some relaxation techniques or use a mindfulness app to help
children to calm themselves.
► It's important to help your child gain perspective around what they have
experienced: although it is a terrible thing, these things are extremely rare
and there is no need for them to be scared all the time or change what they do
because of this experience.
►Try to provide opportunities for children to spend time with people they know
and trust, and try to talk openly about how they are feeling.
► Wherever possible, return to normal routines and activities as soon as
possible. The more predictability a child has in their lives at this time, the
safer they are likely to feel.
► Sensationalised stories, graphic imagery and descriptions, anger and blame
will all impact on our children's overall perception of the event and ongoing
threat. This needs to be kept in mind during all communications with children
and young people.
► If you are unsure about allowing your child to return to School, speak to
School staff to agree how you are jointly going to support your child.
Lois continues:- "Children and young people look to adults to put scary
situations into context and to set boundaries to ensure the message they hear is
one that is appropriate for their age and level of understanding. It's to be
expected that many people caught up in Monday's traumatic event will be
unsettled and upset for a period of time afterwards. These support methods will
help children to regain their previous state of wellbeing and the vast majority
of young people will cope with this trauma and be OK. However, if their levels
of distress are very high or they continue to experience changes in mood and
behaviour several weeks after the event, this may be a sign they require further
help. If this is the case you should contact your child's GP for further
assistance. By reminding children of the strength and resilience they possess
and helping them to draw on the strength and support of family, friends and
professionals, will help them through this difficult time."
Full details of professional guidance on how to talk to children and young
people following the tragic events in Manchester are available on Barnardo's
website and look up:- "Advice to
families to help children deal with trauma."
For further support and advice, the following help lines also be
► Samaritans (116 123) – operates a 24 hour service
available 365 days a year.
► Childline (0800 1111) – runs a free helpline for
children and young people in the UK.