Christchurch 15 March 2019
This is a really tough time for New Zealanders and it’s critical our children and young people get the support and care they need as they return to schools and other learning institutions. The events in Christchurch can confuse and frighten anyone who may feel unsafe or worried that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to others for information, guidance and support.
Parents and teachers can help children and young people feel safe by:
- providing reassurance and keeping to routines
- staying calm and promoting a calm environment
- doing enjoyable things together
- taking time to listen and talk.
Be guided by their questions, be factual and age appropriate with your response. Children and young people do not always talk about their feelings readily – ask them if they are feeling worried.
Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate:
- Very young children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their ELS, school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them.
- Older primary school aged children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school, emergency services and community leaders to provide safe schools.
- Secondary school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school and communities safer and how to prevent violence and tragedies in society. Have a way of recording the ideas and how you might build on the ideas expressed.
Observe children’s emotional state
Changes in behaviour, appetite, and sleep patterns can also indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort.
In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions, particularly those who have experienced difficulties and change. Parents and teachers, seek support through your school pastoral care system or your GP.
Further information links from the Ministry of Education
Resources to help with mental distress after Christchurch incident — Ministry of Health website
How to talk to your kids about: Trauma - The Parenting Place website
Helping children deal with trauma – Ministry of Health website
Talking to children about terrorism and trauma — Children’s Commissioner NZ Facebook page
Phone Counselling Service for those affected by Christchurch Incident — Ministry of Health website