Media coverage of various traumatic events often focus on the most frightening aspects and replay graphic and disturbing images many times. Although reducing exposure to the media coverage is sensible, such as not having the television broadcasting news and current affairs in the home, it is difficult to avoid the big stories of mass shootings and terror attacks as they are on favourite websites, on the car radio and newspapers and discussed at school. Research has demonstrated that adults are also affected by media coverage of tragedies and senseless violence, triggering strong emotional responses and anxieties, but young children particularly may believe the same thing will happen to them or their family and not register that the event was far away or a one-off happening. It can also lead to children thinking about the event and cause impact on sleep and time at school and generally feel unsafe.

Advice given on how to talk to your children includes:

  • Reduce the exposure to media coverage, but it is not possible to keep the event secret, which may make it more terrifying and worrying.  It is important to explain what has happened and provide comfort if required. One suggestion is to regularly watch a brief news summary with your children, so they can ask you about the events at the time and can discuss issues and fears at the time of watching
  • Speak with them about their feelings and explain what is happening to help understand and reassure the child, it will also allow you to correct misunderstandings
  • Remind them of the good things that happen in the world too
  • Provide distraction to help limit the time spent thinking about the events and refocus attention, particularly outdoors, playing a game or watching something else on television
  • Reassure the child who is distressed that their reactions are normal and will pass with time. Help to manage any physical reactions such as slow and steady breathing when they are tense and breathing rapidly.
  • Answer questions factually , concisely and clearly without unnecessary detail. If you don't know the answer to a question,  just say so.
  • Remind them that when something terrible happens it is normal to feel overwhelmed, adults feel like this too. There are ways to help feel better
  • Allow children to talk and cry, calming and quiet conversation helps a  child to settle and feel safe. The events are in the news because they do not happen often.
  • Many times the events happen a long way away from where the child lives, and it is helpful to remind them of this.
  • The most shocking pictures and words are to tell people what is going on, but these are usually the worst, most shocking parts of what has happened and pictures of people helping, treating the injured or supporting others are more difficult to find
  • Accept the child's reactions and responses, it is not helpful to tell them to "be good" or " stop being silly"
  • Continue the normal routines and rhythms of daily life

The ABC has a long running children's news programme - BtN ( Behind The News) , the website has a section designed for children on how to cope with  " upsetting news"          ( on the front page of the website

, also see for more advice and resources designed  to help parents and care givers understand and respond to children experiencing trauma

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