Ariana Grande Concert Bombing: How to Help Kids and Young Fans Cope
Less than a day after a 22-year-old terrorist detonated a bomb at an Ariana Grande concert, killing more than 20 and wounding close to 60, reports are pouring in of young, horrified fans and devastated parents trying to make sense of the horror. A BBC feature has chronicled a frantic mother's search for her daughters, an eight-year-old has been identified as a victim of the event, according to Metro, and feelings of helplessness continue to swarm any household that has basic access to cable news.
So how do parents help their children move forward? How can a kid who witnessed the horror firsthand possibly move on? Child Psychologist Dr. Jillian Roberts told PopCrush that answers might seem out of reach, but listening, engaging and rest are paramount in times of terror.
Roberts said it's important to understand that children and teenagers will react differently, and while some may be numb, others will be more visibly upset and experience "intense anxiety."
"This might be the first time they were really affected by terrorism," she said. "A child might have their world view shaken. It would likely feel as though their rug has been pulled out from under their feet. They might not know how to process these new feelings."
Roberts added that children who were at the concert may experience effects that are "a thousand times more intense and serious" and will likely feel the effects of some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
"They might be on guard and experience hyper-vigilance, waiting for something else bad to happen," she said, adding that flashbacks, nightmares, sporadic crying, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and irritability are all potential side-effects. She noted some children might even try to make sense of the event by reenacting it during playtime.
And when it's finally time to address the attack, Roberts suggests parents, older siblings or any adult figure treat young fans delicately, and take a day off of work to be with loved ones as they come to terms with the disaster. Just being with affected children is a good place to start, she said.
"Explain that they are safe, that you will keep them safe," she said. "Tell them that there are wonderful people in the world helping right now...Tell them that you understand what they feel. You do not need to agree or disagree, but rather validate the emotional experience."
Finally, Roberts said it's critical to acknowledge the attack for what it was: an intentional attempt to harm one of society's most vulnerable groups, and to not let terrorists dictate how day-to-day life unfurls.
"We need to meet the immediate needs of our children — next, we need to reclaim our safe spaces," she said.
Photos From Ariana Grande's Dangerous Woman Tour: