Helping young people to cope with trauma or loss caused by terrorism

Events, like the recent Manchester bombing, has an impact on many of us. Something that should be an ordinary everyday treat, like going to a pop concert, becomes a traumatic event as a result of terrorist actions.
Teenagers and children can be affected in different ways, whether they witnessed it or not, and many parents want to know how they can support their child. It may be that their child is displaying stress or anxiety over the attack, they might be pretending it didn’t affect them, or hiding away their real feelings.
The first priority for any parent concerned about their child is to make them feel safe. Try (as much as you can) keeping some structure and routine in the day. Reassure them and make them feel loved. Don’t try and dismiss their feeling, terrorism rocks all of us, it’s designed to do that, so remind them that the way to combat it is through unity.
It is normal when dealing with trauma, loss or grief to have an initial emotional reaction. With support from the network around us, the rawness fades over the first few weeks. It is only if the person remains numb to the incident, constantly replays it in their mind or feels the same or worse that we become more concerned about conditions such as PTSD.
Make sure your child knows that when they are ready you are there to listen to them. Don’t push these conversations, but when your child is ready here are some ways to structure the conversation. Remember, you will have them more than once and it’s important that you are there when they need you, support networks are one of the biggest factors in our emotional wellbeing.

Dealing with grief

• You are safe
• It’s alright to think about it – ask them an open question and then sit in silence whilst they process their thoughts and feelings (too often we try to suggest or tell children what to think or feel here, that’s wrong, let the silence be whilst they think)
• It’s aright to talk about it – naturally, if you have given your child the space to think about what’s worrying them, they will begin to talk or ask questions, again as much as you can listen in silence.
• Help them to plan moving forwards – suggest practical things they can do to help, share things that have helped you

Dealing with Trauma

• Make them feel safe
• Be sympathetic
• Listen to the facts (use silence as in the previous stages)
• Ask how they feel now
• Provide reassurance
• Ask if there’s anything they need

Things that help us to move on (depending on age)

• Making memory boxes
• Preparing photo displays for funerals or memorials
• Helping with the funeral arrangements
• Talking to people
• Sharing fun memories

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