Manchester attack: How to talk to children about terrorism

Many parents will be trying to reassure their children in the wake of the Manchester bombing, which killed at least 22 and hospitalised at least 59 - including many youngsters - who were attending a concert by popstar Ariana Grande.

Newshub has compiled advice from experts around the world about how to talk to children about what they are seeing on the news and how they are feeling.

Don't delay talking to your children about attacks

Even though you might feel compelled to shelter your children from news about terror attacks, your kids are bound to find out anyway. For children aged six and older, Child Mind Institute president Harold Koplewics told Time magazine not to delay telling your children. 

"It's very likely that your child will hear about what happened, and it's best that it comes from you so that you are able to answer any questions, convey the facts, and set the emotional tone," he said.

For older children there are bigger issues to discuss including racism, religion, ethics and politics. Asking older children open-ended questions about what they've heard and what they think can be helpful. Even if they don't want to talk, it's good for them to know that you're there to listen if they need you.

Allow them to express their feelings openly

It's important to acknowledge that kids are scared, without trying to tell them that there's nothing to worry about, according to psychologist Ellen Hendriksen.

"If they're scared, say 'Lots of kids and even adults feel scared. That was scary," Ms Hendriksen suggests.

If you don't acknowledge their fear and instead encourage them to dismiss it, your kids might not open up to you about their feelings.

You could also offer them other ways to communicate their feelings like drawing, painting or writing a letter.

Remind them about the security and good people around them

To reassure children, caregivers can remind them about people who are there to look out for them including parents, family members, security guards, police, intelligence services, law enforcement and the Government.

Talk about people who are doing good in the world and point out the people who are helping others, to balance out the news of terrorists.

Help them to take action

For kids who are worried, psychologist Dr Jennifer Hartstein recommends creating a safety plan together for what they might do if they're ever in danger - things like knowing where the exits are at a venue. 

For children who are afraid or asking how anyone could commit such awful acts, Ms Hendriksen recommends asking children what they'd like to do to "better the world".

"Ask if they want to donate to a relief organisation, collect school supplies for Iraqi children, or send a care package to the troops. Kids 17 and older can even give blood," she suggests.

"Help them feel empowered by taking action or taking a stand."

Put terrorist attacks into context

Parents can also reassure children that terrorist attacks are rare. Psychologist Emma Citron suggests telling them: '"This is a very rare occurrence", "It's absolutely awful, but thank goodness it's extremely rare." 

When children ask if it could happen again Ms Citron says parents shouldn't lie but could add that "It's very unlikely, these are very, very rare events and we are sure the police are going to up security even more."

Parents should then encourage children to continue going about their normal activities and routines and remind them they are safe.

Correct misconceptions about terrorists

Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen says if children are conflating terrorists with large groups of people such as Muslims or people of Middle Eastern descent, caregivers can put these ideas into perspective.

She recommends telling children that "Terrorists are people who use violence and make people feel scared. Almost all people who are Muslim are peaceful."

For example, Vox reports that terrorism by Muslims makes up less than one percent of all murders in the United States.