Fear of world events

The following is an excerpt from the ebooklet Working with children who fear life-threatening events (war, terrorism, disasters and pandemics) by Murray Evely and Zoe Ganim.

Children’s emotional responses will vary in nature and severity. Common emotions experienced by children following a significant adverse event include fear, confusion, anger, loneliness, sadness, and anxiety. It is a general principle that whatever you know about a child, the parents should be informed about your observations or concerns.

When to seek further assistance

If a child has been displaying a number of the above behaviours for more than one month following life-threatening events, it is recommended that you refer them, via their parents, to a psychologist or the family doctor. If the child is left untreated, a type of anxiety disorder that occurs following exposure to or fear from life-threatening or adverse events may develop, which can remain with the child through adolescence and into adulthood. A diagnosis and treatment will require consultation with a mental health practitioner or doctor.

Strategies to support the child who fears life-threatening events

Acknowledge the child’s concerns

  • Listen to the child and acknowledge the fears. Reassure the child that, given the widespread media attention on the issue, it is understandable they are worried about what is happening and how it could impact upon their lives.
  • Normalise the child’s feelings. Let the child know that media exposure or hearing adults talk about worrying events might lead to heightened feelings of fear and apprehension and that this is normal and that these feelings will subside.

Provide perspective

  • Respond to incorrect information or assumptions about the event. Explain how information can be distorted when it is passed from one person to the next, as in the game known as ‘Chinese Whispers’.
  • Know the facts about the situation. Don’t speculate about what is happening— make sure you know the facts and keep up-to-date. Inform the child or your class about what is actually happening in a way that does not promote further anxiety.
  • Answer questions as honestly as possible, in an age-appropriate way without ‘blood and guts’ or information they don’t need to know, to avoid further worrying the child.

ISBN 978-1-921908-11-8

Copyright © Murray Evely and Zoe Ganim 2011

No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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