Tackling terror on the home front
Nightly bombardment of recent terrorist atrocities in France, Turkey and the US on the TV news and and social media is taking its toll on our kids - and a leading child psychologist has some strategies for Australian parents to help counteract the harm it does.
Professor Matt Sanders, who devised the world-renowned Positive Parenting Programme practised in 26 countries around the world, has said that live streaming on sites like Twitter and Facebook have made horrifying images and sounds more accessible.
But as kids can’t often understand what they see, they’re reacting to traumatic events by having nightmares, bedwetting, becoming overly clingy, or highly anxious and worried. In teenagers it can manifest as flashbacks, disturbed sleep and severe anxiety.
“We’re living in a time when children are regularly being exposed to tragic loss of innocent lives through TV and social media,” said Sanders, a Professor of Clinical Psychology and the Director of the Parenting and Family Support Centre at the University of Queensland. “Of course this kind of thing has always been around - it’s just that now it’s more shared through TV and social media.
“Younger kids think that what they see on TV may happen to them in their bed, in their home, in their neighbourhood. They’re naturally worried about their safety. The difference in older kids is at least they can talk about it.
“We cannot protect them from everything in an age of technology, so as parents the dilemma is identifying the traps and hazards, and knowing what to do about them.”
Little clinical research has been done into the effects of terror on children, though anecdotally, he says, parents are reporting that kids are being distressed by what they’ve seen, heard or read about.
Older kids - those over 11 beginning adolescence - start to develop a level of rationality; they have a “better comprehension of world events and are able to process the negativity better.”
There are online programmes for parents of kids to aged 11, which can be done at home, teaching social and emotional competencies (evaluated in hundreds of scientific studies) as well as real-time seminars in NSW on raising resilient children to help in your discussions on terror. Go to: triplep-parenting.net for more.
Professor Matt Sanders
Horrific images on the TV news