10 tips for talking with children and young people about terror

Two years ago, we wrote 10 tips for adults about how to live with the terror threat. This can be found by clicking here.

Recent terror attacks, the last one in Manchester, have made many children and young people anxious. Adults, too. We have made a longer "guideline" for parents and adults about how they can talk to children about terror. This can be found by clicking here.

The longer guideline complements the 10 short tips we list below. These are meant as a to-do list to understand, reassure, and support children and young people.

10 tips for talking with children and young people about terror

 By Professor Atle Dyregrov

  1. Children take in more disaster and terrorism news than adults believe. It is important that adults talk with them, help them to understand, and do not leave them to their fantasies.
  2. Be open and honest in the conversation. Be calm, but word the concern you as an adult have. Your own calm will spread to your children.
  3. If the children are very concerned, explain to them how miniature the risk is for the terror to hit them or you (see the guide for examples on how to explain). Tell them that the police are extra vigilant.
  4. Tell them that the most important thing they can do is to live life normally and to push away worries by doing cool things (distracting).
  5. Children can practice "strong thoughts". If they are worried they can repeat for themselves: "There's no reason for this to happen here," "The police are more alert than ever before", "I'm safe", "This will be fine".
  6. Help the kids to understand. They need “pegs” to understand what terror and terrorism are. The pegs must be simple (see guide for examples).
  7. Tell them that they can come to you at any time with their questions or concerns.
  8. Show interest in what children and young people talk about in between themselves. Fear is contagious and can spread in groups.
  9. Be aware of how much they read or watch terrorist news - limit the intake and talk to them about how spending much time watching news can increases their fear and worry.
  10. If they are very worried, ask them to set aside a daily short "worry time" (10-15 min.). If concerns arise outside this time, they may repeat for themselves that "I will think about this in my worry time".

 We also suggest downloading the helpful information found by clicking here