Last night the UK suffered it’s third terrorist attack since March. It has only been two weeks since 22 year old Salman Abedi set off a bomb at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester killing 22 people and injuring more than 60, amongst them many young children. Fast forward to last night and 7 people have been killed so far and 48 people taken to hospitals after 3 jihadis knocked down pedestrians on London Bridge before then attacking innocent civilians enjoying a Saturday evening in Borough Market.
Around the clock reporting will dominate the news and social media in the coming days, and with the ‘One Love’ benefit concert taking place this evening it is impossible to shield children from these horrific events. So what’s the best way to talk to your children to alleviate their fears.
After the horrors of the Paris attack Quartz, Time and Ellen Hendricksen published various guides on how to talk to your children about Terrorism. Below is a brief summary:
Inform them now
“Don’t delay telling your children,” Harold Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute, told Time. “It’s very likely that your child will hear about what happened, and it’s best that it comes from you so that you are able to answer any questions, convey the facts, and set the emotional tone.”
Age appropriate information means your children have accurate information and they know questions on the subject are welcome.
Validate their feelings
If a child says: “I am scared” try not to reply, “there is no reason to be scared.”
“If they’re scared, you can say ‘Lots of kids and even adults feel scared. That was scary,” writes Ellen Hendriksen on Savvy Psychologist. Acknowledging your own fear, or sadness, shows it is okay to be scared.
Ask open-ended questions
More information is better than no information, after a certain age. But too much information can be overwhelming.
Ask kids “what have you heard about what happened in Paris?” and then let them talk. If it’s nothing, you can choose whether to fill in the void so they have a grounding when it comes up. “For kids this age [6-11], knowledge can be empowering and helps relieve anxiety,” Koplewicz told Time.
Remind them about the security all around them
Kids love learning about the police when they are little because they inherently believe in authority. Remind them of all the people in their lives who can protect them: teachers, coaches, babysitters, grandparents, police, security guards, soldiers. Talk about heroes to counterbalance stories of terrorists.
Kids love to divide the world into good guys and bad guys. After an event like Paris, it is important to contextualize the bad guys for what they are: a tiny minority.
Tonight we will be watching the concert as a family together, dicussing what questions arise and thinking of the individuals and families affected whose lives have been changed irrevocably.
One Love !
Illustration by Manon de Jong