Tack­ling ter­ror on the home front

Monthly Chronicle - - Health & Well-being - Jenny Bar­lass

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

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