Responding to and helping children after yesterday’s Manchester bomb attack

My heart goes out to all those affected by last night’s bomb attack.  I have been working in a primary school in Manchester all day today and listening to staff and children trying to make sense of last night’s event, expressing their confusion, fear and grief.  Staff have been asking me how best to respond to children who wish to discuss things and I am aware that in some of our schools staff will be working with children who have been directly affected by what happened.

I think it is important for us to remember the difference in how adults and children express their feelings. Today the adults in school have been talking about how they feel, expressing their concerns and fears, which is how we as adults are able to deal with our feelings if we choose to. Children on the other hand often use their behaviour to communicate how they feel as they may not have the language skills to express their feelings. This has been evident in school today as there has been a general feeling of anxiety and unease. Some of the older children aged 10 and 11 have been asking questions such as will the school be next, the younger children have appeared more unsettled, some have appeared unaffected as they may not know of the events, but may just have a sense of things feeling a bit different by picking up on the adults anxiety.

For those of you looking for answers on how best to support our children I would encourage you to let the children talk and ask questions if they want to. It’s important for us as adults to think about how the children may be feeling about what’s happened, and to help them feel safe. For staff in school this involves providing a consistent and predictable routine and allowing children to ask questions and talk about their feelings if they want or need to. For parents, it’s being aware that children may feel more unsettled and anxious than usual and looking out for signs of this in the child’s behaviour, such as being more clingy or finding it harder to sleep.

As adults we often feel that we need to do something at times like this, whereas for children the best thing to help them feel safe again is by keeping things as consistent and routine as usual. Allow the children to have their feelings of sadness, fear and confusion and support them with this.

The news is full of the tragedy of this event but also the amazing ways in which people are supporting each other and demonstrating basic human kindness.  This is something we can help our children learn too.

Finally, look after yourselves.  This tragic event has had an impact on us all and we will all need time to process our feelings and grieve.

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