Talking to children about terrorism can be difficult. When the news is flooded with images of disaster and tragedy, sometimes it can't be avoided. Children also can pick up upon the stresses of parents during difficult times. During the tragic event in Paris, those images were front and center in everyone's mind. What about the children? How do you discuss these issues in an age-appropriate way?
I distinctly remember how my children ( both teenage daughters) were divastated with the insecure surrounding of terrorism. It affected specially to my younger one being at a more tender age. The thought grew in my mind since then as,how to help release the pent up passive fear and not let it get converted into debilitating phobia.
Talking about terrorism with kids is not something covered by the dozens of parenting books you've read before you had children. I think most parents find “the sex talk” as one of the most difficult speeches we’d have to give to our kids at some point.
Unfortunately, terrorism and mayhem has been highly visible lately all over the world. If you have a television at home, there may be an image or a phrase that you probably wished your kids had not seen or heard. But it is inevitable to let it go and pretend it is not happening.
How to talk to kids about terrorism:
[if !supportLists]1. Be calm. Even thought it may be a bit difficult to control your reactions to the terrorist attacks, try to maintain calm. Children are very receptive, and if they see their parents, grandparents, or other important members of their family stressed, they will feel the anxiety and stress themselves, without really knowing why.
[if !supportLists]2. Welcome the “Why” questions. If your child starts to ask “why?”, welcome the questions! Be patient in trying to find the best words and examples so he or she can understand this confusing topic. Be empathetic by expressing that it is difficult even for you to understand why things like these happen around the world.
[if !supportLists]3. Keep it simple. Avoid drama and the big words. If Spiderman is what they know, then explain the situation with Spiderman characters. They don’t really need to know all the details, just enough to satisfy their curiosity and feel reassured that they are safe.
[if !supportLists]4. Use common sense. If you know that your child is still very young, then it may not be that important to say more than “some really really bad guys hurt some good people in Paris, and the good guys are working to keep us safe.” If you give full details about the situation, its very likely that they’re not going to understand and they’ll start to feel anxiety and insecurity.
[if !supportLists]5. [endif]Reassure them. Make sure that you emphasize that they are safe and you are there to protect them.
[if !supportLists]6. Continue your normal life. Life goes on, and we can't live in fear. So try to continue your routine so neither your children or yourself, are caught in instability.
If your child was in close contact with a terrible incident like this one, seek professional help. Counseling really does help with both children and adults deal with the aftermath of crisis.
If you or anyone you know has been in a traumatic incident and would like to talk to a qualified mental health therapist, Through Your Thoughts can help! With Through Your Thoughts you can find a Therapist schedule online therapy sessions with trained professionals.