How To Talk To Your Children About Terrorism
It's hard to explain something to our children that we can hardly get our heads around ourselves. Following the recent attacks on London and Manchester, I found myself in the unfortunate position of once again having to explain terrorism, the attacks and the needless deaths to my 9-year-old and overly perceptive 5-year-old who were seeking reassurance that their uncle who lives in London was safe and well and would come to no harm.
This got me thinking about the way I explain it to my children and what the expert advice is on the tragic topic in terms of how to approach it, how much information to divulge based on their age and how much we can realistically shield them from it.
Advice for Parents
1. Acknowledge Their Feelings
It is perfectly normal and acceptable for children to feel worried or scared when they hear about incidents like the terror attacks on the news. I always tell my children it is ok to feel scared or worried and that they should not try to cover up these feelings to appear more grown up. I am honest about the fact that I sometimes feel scared or worried as I feel it is important they know they are not alone in how they feel.
2. Encourage Them To Talk
And to ask questions. I think it is important that we as parents have an open-door policy when it comes to sensitive topics. It is better that you know they are getting accurate information. If they have questions, I try to answer them as best I can.
3. Reassure Them
That events like this are on the news because they are rare. I think it is particularly important when an attack happens somewhere they might know someone that they are reassured it is unlikely to ever happen to anyone they know or to them. It is also important to ensure they know that the story is generally only on the news because of its rarity.
4. Talk About The Heroes
When an event like this happens, it is automatic for us as humans to focus on the negative, the human tragedy and while this is necessary, I feel it is important for me to encourage my kids to find a positive in the most tragic circumstances. Talk to them about the police, ambulance and fire services and about the civilians who helped in any way they could. Let them see something good in a horrible situation. It helps to remind them that out of such a tragedy in Manchester came a concert that raised huge funds for the victims.
5. Tell The Truth
In an age appropriate way. Don’t gloss over the truth but you don’t need to give them every detail as this could scare them more.
6. Encourage Them To Live Life As Normal
Despite worries and fears. Let them know that it is ok to carry on life as normal and that it is ok for them to continue to laugh and play like they have always done.
7. Teach Them To Ignore Stereotyping
Encourage them to ignore stereotypical information in terms of supposed religious connections with the attacks. It is so important that we, as parents, do not feed in to the stereotypes that exist in terms of extremists claiming religion is the reason they carry out such atrocities. As many of our children now have kids of various religions in their class and neighbourhood, we need to explain that religion and terrorism are not related in any way and that they should never judge anyone based on religious views.
8. It’s Not All Bad
Ensure your kids that although there are a small number of bad people in the world, they are the exception rather than the rule and that the world has far more good people in it than bad.
What Do The Experts Say?
- Consultant Clinical Psychologist Emma Citron emphasises the importance of parents not shying away from discussing the news stories. She advises that shielding children from events like this ultimately doesn’t benefit them in the long run. She also cautions against giving the children to much gory detail as it is unnecessary for their understanding of what has happened.
- Alison Jamieson gives some invaluable advice about how children can begin doing things purposefully which will keep them safer and what to do if something like this happens again.
- The NSPCC advises that children should talk it out with a trusted adult and we as parents need to accept when that is not us! The organisation says it is imperative that children feel they can talk about their worries and fears and get answers to any questions they might have. Unfortunately, the question of why this happens also alludes adults so answering this question can be very difficult for parents.
- Denise Daniels, Child Development and Parenting Expert gives us advice on how we should approach a conversation in terms of listening to what a child knows before you launch into facts about an event. This gives us the opportunity to correct common misconceptions that kids may have from conversations with friends or processing parts of the news and not the entire story.
Have you got any tips to add? Let us know in the comment section below.
*Lead image credit: GETTY IMAGES / DAVE HOGAN FOR ONE LOVE MANCHESTER