ACP members speak on radio about talking to children after there has been a terror attack. Rachel Melville-Thomas spoke on a BBC Radio Wales and Stuart Hannah spoke to a BBC Radio Tees broadcaster. The ACP had numerous requests for advice and support in helping parents explain terror and how children might respond to the news after the Manchester attacks last week. We have also written a response piece for journalists and others who might be asked for advice on the subject. See: The Association of Child Psychotherapists offers advice on how to communicate with children and young people about terror.
Both ACP members talked about the importance of filtering information for children and thinking through as adults what is important to share and why, in readiness for questions children might ask. The need for adults to be aware of their own responses is also key and being able to understand grief, shock and loss without creating fear and anxiety in children who want to understand why. ACP registered child and adolescent psychotherapists work with many children and their families who have expereinced trauma and loss and take the time to support individuals and families helping them make sense of their experiences, showing them that they are able to hear and bear the telling of these and the associated pain. We see this as an important part of our work.
Melville-Thomas encouraged parents to help children by understanding that we all react on two levels:
Think of your mind like a house. You might have a thought like “Oh that is so sad and awful” (The UPSTAIRS thought). But also a hidden or private worry (The BASEMENT thought). This second level is more confused, irrational and imagined – like thinking this will happen in your town next, and possibly not wanting to go out of the house to school. It is an unconscious reaction. She invited parents to be prepared to respond to both levels of communication.
Hannah talked about how children may "tune in" to trauma and distress and that parents will therefore need also to "tune in" to their children, picking up on their individual reactions and emotional responses to events rather than more specifically, the hard facts.