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Helping children deal with the Christchurch attacks

Thinking of Christchurch today and hoping the Muslim community knows we care, while we block out hate.
Thinking of Christchurch today and hoping the Muslim community knows we care, while we block out hate.

Today, like most of the world, I’m thinking about Christchurch in New Zealand where 49 people died because of an act of horrible violence. 

It’s a beautiful city and I’m determined to hold on to recent memories of all that is good about it: great people, wonderful walks, innovative architecture (forced by bad experiences with earthquakes) and a vibrant diversity. They know how to live with nature and its threats.

I refuse to acknowledge anything about the Christchurch perpetrator. I do not want his name lodged in my consciousness, so I’m not reading the newspaper today, even though I’m a journalist. It’s enough to be distressed that he is Australian.

Here are some tips to help cope. They come from a BBC website for children – but the lessons apply just as well to adults.

“If you are upset by the news it’s important to know that you are not the only one and it’s OK to have those feelings,” BBC Newsround’s ‘Advice if you’re upset by the news’ says.

It goes on to say:

  • share your worries
  • know that it’s normal to feel upset
  • do things that make you feel happy
  • remember, it’s rare.

To view this really good website go to: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/13865002 

To make sure I follow point number three, and stay feeling strong and positive about Christchurch, I’m looking at two of my favourite photos of that city, not the photos of the incident or distressed survivors. One was taken at a front fence, just near Hagley Park. It interlaces nature with art, human planting and painting coordinated and intertwined. The other was taken closer to the city, at a corner where you can jump on a tram, eat at funky eateries, walk a few blocks to a museum or cross the street to one of the best art galleries anywhere in the world, te puna o waiwhetu.

Sending love to Christchurch
A beautiful Christchurch fence and garden.

In the past, the BBC has also shared another site to help children deal with terrorist attacks: “How to talk to children about terrorist attacks” at:

https://www.bbc.com/news/education-40011787

The tips both sites share are all about putting bad feelings into words so they can be expressed and therefore shared with others who can support the child. But it’s about good communication and explaining things. You don’t have to explain well or perfectly. It’s more about creating openings, showing the child that they can talk about what’s happened and say anything they like, no matter how it might sound to others.

If dealing with the tragedy at a more personal level, another site, an American one, talks about how to help children cope with a death which is close to them.

Dr Maysoon Salama, one of the Christchurch victim’s mother’s has written a beautiful book Aya and the Butterfly for children dealing with grief. It is available for free download here.

And you can look up “Helping Your Child Deal With Death” at:

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/death.html

Peace be with you Christchurch.

To find out about A Good Death: a compassionate and practical guide to prepare for the end of life, go to: https://www.booktopia.com.au/a-good-death-margaret-rice/prod9781760637774.html

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