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‘It’s real to them, so adults should listen’: what children want you to know to help them feel safe

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In recent months, we have been confronted by events that make the world seem unsafe. Among these are the horrific stories of child sexual abuse, the rise in Aboriginal youth suicide and the tragedy of mass killings at the hands of an Australian terrorist in Christchurch.

Many of us feel anger, despair, hopelessness and grief as we are hit by what feels like a constant barrage of bad news. It’s important to take care of our mental health during such times, but it’s also vital to think about how children and young people are experiencing and responding to difficult events, and the ensuing emotions.

Read more: How to take care of your mental health after the Christchurch attacks

During the life of the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, we conducted a study to better understand how children and young people conceptualise and experience safety. We wanted to know what they believed adults might do to both keep them safe and help them feel safe.

We spoke to 121 children and young people aged 4-18 in the ACT, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. The participants represented various institutional contexts, including having attended early learning centres, schools, sporting groups, holiday camps, church groups, out-of-home care and hospitals.

Below are some key messages children and young people wanted to get across to the adults in their lives.

In addition to snakes, ghosts, escaped tigers and bullies, participants raised concerns about child abusers and abductors, online dangers, wars and terrorism. They said they learnt about these threats by hearing things directly from parents, siblings and peers (including quiet discussions that weren’t for them), the........

© The Conversation