How to talk to your children about terrorism

People look at flowers and tributes left in St Ann's Square in Manchester ahead of a benefit concert for the victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack. Picture by Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

People look at flowers and tributes left in St Ann's Square in Manchester ahead of a benefit concert for the victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack. Picture by Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

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Parents of children and young people upset or worried about terrorism should listen to their fears but avoid "complicated and worrying" explanations, a children's charity has said.

The NSPCC has issued advice to help parents and carers talk to youngsters about the topic following the attack in London on Saturday.

A spokesman said: "We are deeply saddened following the horrific terror attack in London. Our thoughts are with the victims and families of those who have been affected.

"Our advice for any child or teenager upset and anxious in light of this news is for them to talk to a trusted adult, be it a parent, teacher or to our Childline service."

Talking about terrorism: Tips for parents from the NSPCC

Children are exposed to news in many ways, and what they see can worry them. Our advice can help you have a conversation with your child:

:: Listen carefully to a child’s fears and worries

:: Offer reassurance and comfort

:: Avoid complicated and worrying explanations that could be frightening and confusing

:: Help them find advice and support to understand distressing events and feelings

:: Children can always contact Childline free and confidentially on the phone and online.

:: It’s also important to address bullying and abuse following the terrorist attacks.

:: Some children may feel targeted because of their faith or appearance

Look for signs of bullying, and make sure that they know they can talk with you about it. Often children might feel scared or embarrassed, so reassure them it's not their fault that this is happening, and that they can always talk to you or another adult they trust. Alert your child’s school so that they can be aware of the issue.

:: Dealing with offensive or unkind comments about a child’s faith or background

If you think this is happening, it’s important to intervene. Calmly explain that comments like this are not acceptable. Your child should also understand that someone’s beliefs do not make them a terrorist. Explain that most people are as scared and hurt by the attacks as your child is.

You could ask them how they think the other child felt, or ask them how they felt when someone said something unkind to them. Explain what you will do next, such as telling your child's school, and what you expect them to do.

Children left 'petrified' by terrorism threat

In November last year the NSPCC said children as young as nine have been left "petrified" that Britain could be hit by a terror attack and that youngsters contacting Childline had reported suffering panic attacks, anxiety and insomnia triggered or exacerbated by atrocities around the world.

It was the first year the service has specifically recorded contacts concerning terrorism after a surge in the wake of the Paris massacre.

Subsequent atrocities in Brussels, Orlando and Nice all triggered a higher volume of calls to Childline.

After the attack on Manchester last month, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said it was best to be honest with youngsters about the incident.

Parents should take into consideration the "age and sensitivity" of their child and let them lead the conversation, the College said.

Children can contact Childline for confidential support and advice 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk