How do we talk to our kids about terrorist attacks?

 

We lived in the vain hope that after the horrors of the terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Finsbury Park this year we wouldn’t be having to talk to our children about such hideous crimes again.

But deep down we knew we would, and now we are, following the Parsons Green tube explosion this morning.

We’re frightened. As adults we can’t begin to understand such hate, so for a child it’s inconceivable that anyone would want to hurt innocent people.

Cruella de Vil, Balthazar Bratt, Gaston, Maleficent. These make believe characters are fortunately the closest our children have come to evil, so how do we then explain such real life evil happening, and happening close to home?

Do we let them see the news?

Do we try to shield them from reality?

Do we tell them ourselves before they hear from others in the playground?

If we tell them, how much detail do we go into?

The temptation, as a parent, is to wrap them up in cotton wool, bubble wrap, cotton pads, mohair wool, whatever lovely, cosy material we can get our hands on, and never unwrap them. But sadly that’s not the real world.

The advice from the experts is that it’s better to discuss these incidents with our kids rather than pretend they’re not happening. And it’s best to give them the basic facts and then ask them what they’d like to know.

Take their lead.

Some children may shut it down and lock it away, not wanting to think about it anymore. Others will want the answers to a torrent of anxious questions. Will we get bombed? Are we safe? Why are they doing it? Will they do it again? Will we get killed if we go on public transport? What if they bomb our school?

Completely reasonable questions and ones that most of us have had spinning in our own heads at some point, let’s be honest. We just have the maturity to try to be more rational and realise that life must go on.

And that’s the message the professionals say we need to reiterate to our little people, by remaining as calm and as reassuring as possible. We need to empathise that these terrible events are very rare and that security will be increased to make sure we’re safer than ever. 

Another temptation is to turn off the TV and radio so that they don’t hear the news reports, but that’s not practical in this day and age. We’re all surrounded by news due to our exposure to social media, but the advice is to be firm with older children about how much they look up on the internet. Some young people can become obsessed with finding out more, but it’s our job to protect them and stop them seeing too much.

The main aim we all have as parents is that our children aren’t living in fear of terrorist events such as this morning’s explosion, and that they realise they are safe to go out.

They must carry on leading happy, healthy, normal lives.

As much as we can’t make promises that this will never happen again (if only), we can reassure them that the police and security forces will protect us all as much as possible.

We must stand together and carry on living as normal, because for every poisoned apple out there, there are a thousand glowing hearts.

For more information on how to talk to children about terrorism, the following websites may be helpful:

http://www.nspcc.org.uk

http://www.childline.org.uk

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-40011787

Newsround have made a video for children, giving them advice if they are upset by the news.

 

 

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22 Comments

  1. September 18, 2017 / 11:55 am

    I’m a great believer in answering the questions and facing it head on. Fortunately neither of my girls are really old enough to understand enough to ask but that won’t last much longer. I always put the news on if something has happened and never shy away from it. But I am not scared by it in the huge scheme of things that could happen to you. I also feel that, sadly, it is a fact of life now. Terrorists exist. They have for many many years but now our country is a target. I would rather my children understand the importance of vigilance and also acceptance of others than live their life with their heads in the sand or scared because they don’t understand.

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      September 19, 2017 / 3:05 pm

      I totally agree, we never shy away from it either and try to answer questions (of which there are many as you can imagine) as honestly as possible. As long as our kids know that they mustn’t live in fear and that life goes on. Thx for reading x

  2. September 19, 2017 / 10:29 am

    I’m with you on giving the basics, not shying away and allowing questions. Certainly stamps out any of the playground mis-information. I think it is really important to make them realise that it is on the news because it is unusual and the likelihood of it happening near them is remote. To be aware, but not let it stop you living. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      September 19, 2017 / 3:02 pm

      I’ve had to reiterate to my kids that this is very rare but I can see how they have started to think it’s not that rare, as it has happened far too many times already this year. But you’re so right, hopefully we can explain it to them in such a way that they know that life is for living and we mustn’t live in fear. Thx for reading x

  3. September 19, 2017 / 12:24 pm

    It is indeed a sad fact of life and one that we never dreamed we would be sharing with our children. I think you speak for all of us with the questions you raise. I may have already said this, but after the Manchester attack I found myself digging really deep and it made me think back to my own parents and childhood. My parents living in East London as children during the war and then the IRA bombings that we grew up with. Thinking back heartened me and made my resolve stronger that we must all carry on in the way that we know how. Sadly, these events have come in such quick succession that my daughter now asks ‘is it another terrorist attack’. She is 11 and it almost seems to have become part of her young life. Too young to understand but too old to be shielded. Thanks for sharing such a relevant post with #tweensteensbeyond

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      September 19, 2017 / 3:01 pm

      My daughter is about to turn 11 and I think she has accepted that it’s a part of their lives, although she finds it so hard to comprehend. I remember the IRA bombs too, and I do remember becoming so used to hearing about it on the news even though it was very scary, it did seem a part of life back then. Thx for reading x

  4. September 19, 2017 / 12:40 pm

    This is such an important post, particularly now. I have always spoken to my boys about these things. I have the news on in a morning so it’s difficult to avoid but to be honest I think sharing this with them makes them trust me more if that makes sense? I’m willing to discuss these things with them and give them what answers I can. It’s difficult yes, but it needs to be spoken about. My boys are 8 and 13 so it’s a lot easier for me than I’m sure it would be if they were younger.
    #twinklytuesday

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      September 19, 2017 / 2:59 pm

      My eldest two girls are 9 and 10 now so it is easier with them (though not easy at all obviously) but it does help when they’re slightly older, as my 6 year old really can’t process such information yet. I’ve always been honest too and not lied to my kids to protect them as I want them to trust me. Thx for reading and commenting x

  5. September 19, 2017 / 12:41 pm

    Great post! There’s so much bad news out there, and our position as parents has been that we want them to hear about things FIRST from us. That way we get to front load information about how to process the data and can begin to guide their response.

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      September 19, 2017 / 2:58 pm

      It’s so important to get to them first before they hear all sorts of things from their peers, which have usually been embellished and could seem even more scary. Thx for reading and commenting. x

  6. September 19, 2017 / 1:19 pm

    It is a hard line to walk… but parents are parents because we have been entrusted to help guide our kids through the challenges of life, and such tragedies are part of those challenges… Helping them work through it while they are young will help them when they are adults…. and staying calm is so important.

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      September 19, 2017 / 2:57 pm

      Absolutely agree that staying calm is of upmost importance as they will mirror our emotions. It’s a big responsibility this parent thing but you’re right, we have been entrusted to guide them to help in future deal with life’s realities. Thx for reading and commmenting x

  7. September 20, 2017 / 4:13 am

    I love how you handle this and thank you for providing resources for people to look up! #bigpinklink

  8. September 20, 2017 / 3:02 pm

    heading back from #fortheloveofBLOG

  9. September 20, 2017 / 4:00 pm

    Depending on what age they are, my approach would be different. The importance of feeling in a safe environment is key, however there are risks but putting them into perspective will be the main job. I also think of young people where the risks can’t be hidden or they’ve fled and the privilege we sit in to be able to have the choice of this conversation. #BloggersClubUK

  10. September 21, 2017 / 8:04 am

    I feel quite lucky that our two are still a bit too young to really question or understand the devastating events that are going on around us. I know that this won’t be the case for much longer though and it’s going to be so difficult to try and talk them through it. I’m going to check out the Newsround link. Thank you x

  11. September 21, 2017 / 3:53 pm

    With three children at different ages I have found that they want to deal with this in different ways. I take my lead from them. I would never avoid the TV footage but we don’t dwell on it either. You raise some important points here and it’s a useful list of resources at the end of your post. I have always been a big fan of Newsround and I like the way they present difficult subject matter. Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

  12. September 23, 2017 / 7:47 pm

    I had my first experience of having to talk to Baby Lighty about terrorism after the Parsons Green attack. He said he wanted to watch the ‘nee naw nee naw’ on the news, and my gut instinct was to say no, there were bad people involved and we shouldn’t watch it. He’s only two, so he doesn’t really understand, but it did make me think about how we’ll deal with it as he gets older. Thank you for your advice here, it’s very wise and definitely given me something to think about. Thank you for linking this up to #DreamTeam.

    • Susie | So Happy In Town
      September 24, 2017 / 9:25 am

      It’s a tough conversation to have but I have decided to be as honest as possible with my three, while avoiding any unnecessary detail, although they obviously ask a lot of question as it’s all so hard to comprehend. Thx for reading x

  13. September 24, 2017 / 12:51 pm

    I’m yet to have to tackle discussing this with my girls as they’re both still too young to understand but I am worried about the day they do have questions. I think I plan on being as honest as possible but I also want them to be aware of all the good in the world. Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x

  14. September 25, 2017 / 12:11 pm

    A great post! It’s such a sad time we live in that there’s reason to take off the mask of naivety from kids so early on. Thanks for linking up to #fortheloveofBLOG x

  15. September 26, 2017 / 1:13 pm

    I have spoken to our oldest because you can’t control what they hear in the playground & I figured it was better coming from me #humpdaylinky

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