Our hearts go out to New Zealand and those affected by last week’s tragedy in Christchurch. It can be very difficult to answer the questions of children we when can struggle with such difficult events. Below is a list of common reactions, ideas and suggestions of ways that you can handle issues.

 Common reactions

It is common to think about safety and predictability of the world when tragedies such as the Christchurch incident occur.

Reactions are influenced by many factors:

Knowing someone impacted.

  • Identifying with the victims and survivors.
  • Seeing and hearing terrifying images and discussions.   
  • Here are some ways you can make children and young people feel safe:
  • What to say and how to care
  • The developmental age of the person influences what they understand and how they respond. Some may be unaware; others will be following all the discussions and media coverage, looking for understanding.
  • Give reassurance that the incident is over.
  • Keep to routines, as they are reassuring.
  • Have time to listen and talk. Listen to concerns and worries and discuss strategies for feeling safe, dealing with worry and being able to take action. This helps in repairing safety and calm.
  • Give a calm response to their concerns.
  • Keep your explanations appropriate for their age and development. Start at their starting point: ask what the child/young person understands about what has happened and what their key worry is. Each child will have a different understanding and will find different parts of what has happened frightening or worrying. Very young children need simple, factual information balanced with assurances of safety. Older children will be appraising their own, and loved ones, safety. They may need help with separating reality from fantasy, and to dispel rumours.
  • Reduce exposure to media coverage and conversations that are distressing and not age-appropriate.
  • Monitor their emotional state. Changes in behaviour, appetite and sleep can be an indicator of anxiety or worry. Young children often express worry through bodily aches and pains.