Protect your children from the trauma of terrorism

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The Australian Psychological Society (APS) is today warning parents to protect their children from the trauma of terrorism. Graphic images of bomb wreckage and injured people along with stories of death and destruction are very difficult for children to tolerate.

APS President, Amanda Gordon, warns that London street scenes look very much like home and the people speaking of terror are highly recognisable. "A primary need of children is to feel safe and protected, a sense of security is vital for normal, non-anxious development," she says.

"It is vital that parents limit the amount of information children are exposed to, especially via visual means, about recent terrorist attacks on London", according to Gordon.

"Repeated exposure can really traumatise the viewer, even if they are watching from a safe distance. Anything like this which is distressing for adults is likely more so for children," she warns.

Tips for parents on dealing with children and the effects of terrorism

  • Look out for changes in your children’s behaviour which may indicate that the child is feeling frightened or upset
  • Shield young children from news reports and programs which include dramatic coverage of the results of terrorism
  • Reassure children of their own safety, and help them make sense of what is happening in a calm and reasonable manner - begin a dialogue to help them gain a basic understanding that is appropriate for their age and responds to their underlying concerns
  • Assure them about all that is being done to protect children who have been directly affected by this crisis
  • Take this opportunity to let them know that if any emergency or crisis should occur, your primary concern will be their safety, make sure they know they are being protected.
  • Find times to discuss what’s happening and to express your own outrage or horror when you can do this without young children around
  • Provide an adult’s perspective to help them understand and make sense of what they are viewing
  • Maintain routines, spend plenty of positive time with your children, and be ready to answer questions about terrorism simply and honestly
  • Give your children extra time and attention, talk, play and, most important, listen to them
  • Help your children return to normal activities

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Amanda Gordon is available for interview on 0411 428 250.