Fear of terrorism prompts increase in counselling sessions at Childline

Children as young as 9 worried about potential terror attacks happening in the UK

Young girl on her phone

The devastating attacks in Paris, Brussels, Orlando, Nice, and Munich this year have triggered a higher volume of counselling sessions at Childline. With many children and young people mentioning panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, and nightmares.

This is the first year that Childline has specifically recorded concerns about terrorism after the Paris attacks last year prompted a surge in contacts. 

Between November 2015 and November 2016 Childline provided 660 counselling sessions about terrorism1. Our figures show that:

    • 1 in 5 counselling sessions at Childline about terrorism were from young people aged 11 or younger2

Social media and the news make it easy for children and young people to become fearful of potential attacks. And many don't know where to turn to talk to about their feelings, and families don't often know how to discuss the topic. 

"I’m so scared at the moment. I constantly feel anxious about terrorism and think that ISIS is going to attack the UK soon. I am really worried that they will get someone in my family. I haven’t been sleeping because it is all I can think about."
Boy, 11 who called Childline

Tips for talking to children about terrorism

Talking about terrorism can be tricky. Let children and young people know that they can always talk to you about anything, and that they’re safe and loved

You know your child best, so take the approach that works for you both. Our Childline counsellors suggest you could:

    • listen and ask them what they know and how they feel about it
    • reassure them that adults are doing everything they can to keep them safe
    • avoid complicated explanations that could leave a child confused and frightened
    • let them know they can always talk to you

Watch our video to see how 3 parents answer their children's questions based on footage from Paris. You can find more advice on The Times.

"My anxiety is becoming worse after the terrorist attacks. I’m really worried something like this could happen in London. I tried talking to my parents about it but they said I was over-thinking things. I feel as if I’m always on the edge when I leave the house and am always looking over my shoulder."
Girl, 14 who called Childline

Talking about difficult topics

There are lots of ways to make it a bit less painful for you both when it comes time to talk about a 'difficult' subject.
Get advice for parents

Worries about the world

Children and young people can feel scared about things that are happening in the world. But they can contact Childline to share their feelings and get the support they need.

Find out more on Childline

Peter Wanless

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said:
“Sadly we now live in a world where the months are punctuated by these inhumane attacks, so it is vital that we do not brush young peoples’ fears aside. Instead we must listen to their worries and reassure them that there are people doing everything they can to keep us all safe.

Childline is always hear to listen to a child, and our helpline can offer adults advice on how to comfort and talk to children about difficult topics.”

NSPCC press office

Contact our national and regional press offices for enquiries about our work or to request interviews.

Contact our press office


Our Childline service offers help and support to thousands of children and young people whenever they need us. 
Read about Childline

Keeping children safe

Find out how you can keep children safe from abuse and other dangers, both online and in the physical world.
Advice on children’s safety

NSPCC helpline

Through the NSPCC helpline, we offer help, advice and support to thousands of parents, professionals and families.
Read about our helplines


  1. Between November 2015 and November 2016 Childline provided 660 counselling sessions about terrorism, with children and young people mentioning panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, and nightmares about terror attacks.

  2. Between November 2015 and November 2016 Childline provided 660 counselling sessions about terrorism. 1 in 5 (19%) of these were with children aged 11 and under. Overall last year only 13 per cent of Childline’s 300,000 counselling sessions were carried out with children aged 11 and under (Childline annual review 2015/16).