4 in 10 British parents indicate children are anxious about threat of terrorism

A survey of parents with children aged 5 to 18 has revealed that 41% of parents think their children are anxious about the threat of terrorism.

The YouGov survey of over 1,800 parents was commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation to uncover the impact world events could be having on children, and equip parents to respond.

Almost a quarter of parents (23%) indicated their children were anxious about the threat of nuclear war. A third of parents (33%) thought their children were anxious about Donald Trump’s presidency. A third of parents (32%) also thought their children were anxious about global warming and climate change.

In terms of signs parents are noticing, of those whose children were anxious, 6 in 10 (61%) have noticed their children starting to ask a lot more questions, a quarter (24%) had noticed their children seeking reassurance, and 13% reported that their children have gone as far as asking to avoid activities such using public transport or going to busy public places. A further 8% reported their children having nightmares.

It found that overall almost 4 in 10 parents (39%) were concerned that their children are becoming more anxious about world and national events.

Child psychology expert, Dr Camilla Rosan of the Mental Health Foundation said: 

"We often forget that distressing world events can have a significant impact on the mental health of our children. This is especially true in the digital age where it’s no longer possible to shield our children from worrying or scary news.

"Our poll indicates widespread anxiety among children – especially about the threat of terrorism. But the good news is there is a lot we can do to help children cope with scary events.

"It’s important for example to let children know the facts of any given event but also to put things into perspective and let them know they are safe. Anxiety about scary news events is normal, but not something children have to deal with alone.

"Parents can really help tackle problems early and support good mental health for their children by talking about these issues in an open and honest way. This lets them know that it’s okay to talk about scary or tricky subjects, and hopefully, will give them the confidence to talk about things that might be playing on their mind at other times too."

How to talk to your children about scary world news

We have released a new guide which details 10 important points to consider when talking to your children about scary world news. The 10 points are:

  1. A news-blackout is rarely helpful
  2. Let them know the facts
  3. Discourage overexposure
  4. Let your children know they are safe
  5. Let them know that it is normal to be concerned
  6. Tailor the conversation to their age
  7. Find the right time to talk about it
  8. Leave lots of space for questions
  9. Allow for repetition
  10. Be as truthful as possible

Read the full guide

Notes to editors

The survey was conducted by YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 1,879 adults with children between the ages of 5 and 18. Fieldwork was undertaken from 5-12 January 2018. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all British adults (aged 18+).