Talking to kids about terrorism

Messages left on flower tributes at St Ann's square, Manchester, England Tuesday May 23, 2017. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Tuesday for the suicide attack at an Ariana Grande show that left more than 20 people dead as young concertgoers fled, some still wearing the American pop star's trademark kitten ears and holding pink balloons. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Many of the victims of the Manchester terror attack were teenagers, but some were even younger than that.

Eyewitness News sat down with a local psychologist about how to talk with children about the sensitive subject of terrorism.

Bradley Hospital psychologist Dr. Marge Paccione-Dyszlewski said parents should remain calm when talking to children about traumatic events, and assure them that everything will be okay.

“Come to the table willing and able to discuss, to answer any questions that they may present. Some of the concepts may be quite difficult, may be quite painful, but the conversation will have a positive outcome in the long run,” she said.

She said the content of conversations should depend on the age of the child and their understanding of certain terms and phrases.

“‘Suicide bomber’ and ‘first responder’ are phrases that we’re familiar with as adults, but kids are kind of left to try and figure out what all that means and to put the pieces together. And so, we want to be available to explain the best we can in a way that the child can comprehend what’s happening,” Paccione-Dyszlewski said

With television and the internet, she said guidance and supervision is key.

It’s also important to know when it’s time to call a professional.

“Sleep patterns are disturbed, eating patterns are disturbed, the child seems to be more emotional than usual. That’s the time we may think about picking up the phone and calling the pediatrician,” she said.

Dr. Paccione-Dyszlewski said children who are prone to anxiety or have trauma in their own backgrounds should be monitored closely at times like this.

She also said it is very important for adults to sort out their own feelings about attacks like these before sitting down to discuss them with kids.