Dreamworld horror: How do you explain it to your children

THE horrifying revelations that four people are dead after climbing aboard perhaps the most benign and long-standing rides at Dreamworld has shaken us all, not merely because so many of us have been on that exact ride.

For children the news may be even more shocking.

 

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Although their grasp of the full consequences of four deaths may be lost on them, it shatters an idea that Dreamworld is a place of joy, a place "where dreams come true" to quote the theme park's slogan.

When such news has almost complete saturation, how do we talk to our children about such a tragedy?

The Australian Psychological Society has some suggestions

 

Stock photograph of Thunder River Rapids ride at Dreamworld.
Stock photograph of Thunder River Rapids ride at Dreamworld.

 

The APS notes that children can experience events -- even distance ones -- as local.

They may feel them as personal and emotion and wonder if they took are at risk.

The APS recommends children not be allowed to watch too news coverage of tragedy or terror, because they may remember it long after it has passed from the minds of their parents.

If they are watching media coverage of shocking or distressing events, watch with them.

"They need your adult presence and perspective.

"Being able to talk about the material with a caring and reassuring adult can greatly reduce these reactions."

 

Help your children to express their feelings by:

  • Encouraging (but not forcing) them to be open about their feelings.
     
  • Letting them know those feelings are normal
     
  • Be prepared for repeated questions as your child processes the event
     
  • Be patient, honest and thoughtful to help them understand
     
  • Correct any misperceptions about the risks.
     

The APS also suggests being careful about how you speak in front of them, because what you say can be misunderstood then repeated by your child.

If they need reassurance, let them know many people work to help keep us all safe and let them know you are watching out for them.

"Try to spend more time with your children and provide them with plenty of affection through cuddles and hugs."

Also watch for signs that you child may feel distressed

Children may not be able to process some feelings the way you do, but it may appear in other ways.
 

Here are signs to look out for, if you worry that your child is distressed:

  • Changes in their play, drawing, dreams or spontaneous conversations
     
  • Regressive behaviour - children behaving younger than they normally do
     
  • Nightmares
     
  • Anxiety about sleeping alone
     
  • Trouble getting to sleep
     
  • Irritability or anger
     
  • Tantrums, increased defiance
     
  • Fussy eating
     
  • Withdrawing
     
  • Wanting to stay close to a parent, becoming more clingy
     
  • Decreased concentration or attention span
     
  • Feelings of anxiety, fears, and worries about safety of self and others
     
  • Increased aggression, angry outbursts,
     
  • Questions about death and dying
     
  • Increased somatic complaints (sore tummy, headaches


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