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