How to talk to young people following the attack in Manchester

Guidance and advice on supporting girls if they ask questions about the recent attack in Manchester

23 May 2017

Girlguiding has an important role to play in helping young people understand and talk about their feelings

Events like the attack in Manchester can be very difficult for young people to understand and they may feel anxious and scared about what has happened. It is important children have trusted adults to talk to and share their feelings with.

As a Girlguiding volunteer it may be that the young people in your unit want to talk to you about what has happened and use our safe space to express their thoughts or concerns. Girlguiding HQ has put together some guidance on how to talk to young people to help them understand and come to terms with events of this kind.

1. Help young people to understand that it is a good thing to share their thoughts and feelings

It is ok to feel anxious, upset and scared. They don’t need to put on a brave face or bottle up what they are feeling. Explain that talking to trusted adults – like their Guide Leader, parents, or teachers - will help them understand how they are feeling and that they are not alone. 

2. Remind young people that guiding is a safe space where they can express what they are feeling without worrying what anyone else will think

Encourage all the young people in your unit to listen to each other and not to judge or comment on how other people are reacting. Everyone experiences fear and sadness in different ways – and that is ok.

3. Remember to take young people’s feelings and views seriously

So they feel heard and respected.

4. Be careful not to stereotype people or blame or condemn people of particular races, cultures or religions

Stop any conversations of this kind immediately.

5. It is important that young people are offered reassurance and support so they don’t become overwhelmed by their feelings

Remind young people that events like this are very rare – and that trustworthy people like the police, emergency workers and firefighters are in charge and are doing everything they can to keep people safe. It can be helpful to talk together about the different kinds of people who help and show kindness after tragic events.

6. Stay calm and in control yourself

Children and young people will look to you for cues about how to respond.

7. Do something practical

Incidents like this can make people feel helpless and out of control. Doing something practical to help the people affected can help to reduce these feelings and provide a focus for an individual young person or the unit. If young people feel that they want to do something to help those affected you could consider sending condolence messages, laying flowers or raising money.

8. Keep a sense of normality

After you have created space for your young people to talk and share their feelings – encourage them to engage in some more typical guiding activities. A sense of normality and familiarity can be very helpful in helping them deal with anxiety and stress.

9. Ask for help

If the event you discuss has had a direct impact on one or more of the girls in your unit, you should signpost them to counselling or other professional services

As well as local organisations you are aware of, a list of potential organisations can be found on our page of support organisations.

10. Talk to others

Let parents know at the end of the meeting that the topic has been discussed so that they can continue it with their girls, if appropriate. And if you want to, please do discuss the issue with your Commissioner, Leadership Team or other leaders in the area - it is important that you feel supported too, whether that is before or after the meeting.