The London Bridge attack will leave many adults worried about their safety, so how can schools and parents support children as they process information that even adults struggle with? Detailed and widespread coverage means it is highly likely children will see, hear or read age-inappropriate news. Here are some useful links, followed by a short article.
FOR CHILDREN & YOUNG PEOPLE
- This CBBC Newsround summary tells children what happened in an appropriate way, and also from Newsround this video aimed at children tells them what to do if they are upset by the news.
- Childline advice on terrorism, attacks and bombs to be used with children and young people
- NSPCC Advice on ‘Supporting children worried about terrorism’ – is great for sharing with parents and includes this video exploring the most effective ways for parents to address any fears their children may have.
- Psychology Today article for adults on Talking to Children about Terrorism.
- Great to print or email to parents – Top Ten Tips for ‘Talking to your children about scary world news’
Over the coming weeks and months you may want to re-evaluate your Prevent provision. For this you may find our Implement Prevent resource useful, alongside the Trust Me, the LGfL/Childnet critical-thinking online resource for the classroom. We are currently working on updating our 2015 resource LGfL resource ‘Counter-Extremism: narratives and conversations’ but this still has much useful information for staff CPD.
ALL NEWS ISN’T ALWAYS GOOD NEWS
Arguments about what children should or should not know about, and what they should be protected from hearing, are important and worthy of more consideration than we can give them here. Most people would agree that there should be some limits to children’s exposure to bad news, at least in terms of language used and details given. But sometimes it happens nonetheless, and the debate quickly becomes irrelevant. This is often the case with an event as serious as a terrorist attack, where children may be caught up in the events themselves. Even if not, they are highly likely to see, hear or read about what happened in non-child-friendly terms. Once that Rubicon has been crossed, what can we do to help?
Pretending that nothing has happened is often no longer an option, and parents and teachers will often need to provide support to process something that is incomprehensible. Those working with young people should be honest in answering the questions they are asked, explain that anxiety and worry are normal emotions, reassure pupils and let them know they are safe, and frame answers to their questions based on their prior knowledge (don’t go into too much detail that maybe they didn’t already know).
DON’T KEEP IT SECRET
But how will we know that those in our care are worrying about something if they don’t tell us, and we don’t know that they know? This might be the case if they saw something online, for example. There are no easy answers, but the same principles apply to encouraging them to speak about bullying, child sexual exploitation, inappropriate imagery and most other online-safety issues. We need to be constantly developing an atmosphere where it is safe to talk about what you have done (or seen or heard) online without risk of being told off, or worse… having your devices taken away from you! Only then can we help young people to open up when they need to.
FOUNDATION FOR OPENNESS
If we have laid those foundations carefully, then we can use the time after a terrorist attack or a death of a teacher or pupil to talk in more general terms about our fears and worries, or about what we see online, without asking leading questions that might prompt worries that weren’t already there. You will in the coming months perhaps wish to revisit your Prevent policy and strategy. But this week, focus more on supporting children and young people and being ready to talk and support them with general discussions on the things that we see online. Or talk about critical thinking or fake fews and how we react to exaggeration or scaremongering.
We can’t wrap children and young people in cotton wool, and life rarely follows a PSHE scheme of work or age-appropriate milestones, but if we keep our eyes and ears open and work on those safe places to be open and honest, we will have made a good start.
*The links on this page were updated on 30/11/2019; the article was previously published