Children's concerns about terrorism - our advice following a rise in calls

Children as young as 9 are worried about terror attacks

We've seen a rise in calls to ChildLine with children as young as 9 worried about terrorist attacks.

Counsellors have spoken to children who are:

  • worried that something similar was going to happen to them in the UK
  • frightened to leave the house
  • struggling to think of anything else apart from the attacks.

Talking to your children about terrorism

Watch our video to see how three parents answer their children's questions based on footage from Paris. You can find more advice on The Times.

Boy on phone in gardenOne 12-year-old girl told a ChildLine counsellor:
"I have heard that ISIS are in the UK and are planning a deadly attack. I don’t feel safe anymore and am having nightmares. These worries are in my mind all the time and I can’t get them out."

Peter Wanless, chief executive, said:
"The attacks in Paris were atrocious, and our thoughts are with all of those who have been affected by these hideous attacks on innocent lives. The avalanche of calls to ChildLine about this tragedy only adds to the feelings of fear and sadness that these evil attacks have prompted around the world.

"It is crucial that children can talk about their feelings following these senseless killings, and are given reassurance and support."
Peter Wanless / Chief executive

"Many of the victims were young people and that will have heightened the fears of those who have seen others their age brutally murdered. It is crucial that children can talk about their feelings following these senseless killings, and are given reassurance and support."

Talking about terrorism: tips for parents

Children are exposed to news in many ways, so it would be practically impossible to shelter them from reports of terrorist attacks when they occur.

When talking with your child, it’s ok to agree such attacks are frightening and sad, and that you can’t stop them happening. Avoid complicated, worrying explanations, as they won’t be able to process the information and it could leave them more frightened and confused.

It’s also important to address victimisation following the terrorist attacks. 

  • Some children will feel targeted because of their faith
    It’s important to look for signs of bullying, and make sure that they know they can talk with you about it. Often they’ll feel scared or embarrassed talking about it, so reassure them it is not their fault that this is happening, and that you will help the bullying stop. Alert your child’s school so that they can be aware of the issue. 
  • Offensive or unkind comments about a child’s faith or background in response to the terror attacks
    If you think this is happening, it’s important to intervene. Calmly explain that comments like this is 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.

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