The horrific terror attacks that took place in Paris last week were truly heart wrenching. The slaughter of innocent people at these populated everyday venues was so shocking that it took the entire world by surprise. Every single person who saw the aftermath of this attack suddenly feels like no place can ever be safe again. If that is the case with the adults, how would the kids react?
As a parent, your first instinct is to shield them from this terrifying occurrence. But the news about the Paris terror attacks cannot be contained within news channels. It’s everywhere, on social media and almost every informative website. Everyone is talking about it, and your kids have easy access to these gory images and details. So you know they have been exposed to the alarming reality of terrorism. Now how do you talk to them about it?
Here are a couple of pointers to assist you:
How to Talk with Children about Terror Attacks
Have age appropriate conversation
Before you talk to your child, consider how much they really know. You can figure this out based on there are. So a teenager may know as much as you but your 6-year-old may not. Accordingly, you know how long and how much you will need to tell them. You could start off acknowledging what happened. Many people died because of this terrible incident. You don’t have to justify why the attacks took place. It is okay to say you don’t know why it happened. What’s important is you need to reassure them. Based on their age explain to them what death is and how it is a consequence of this attack.
Send the right message
You don’t want your chat with your kid to encourage him or her to think attackers should be taught a lesson and that an eye for an eye makes everything right. Instead of focusing on the horrors of the attack shift towards facts like the coming together of people to console one another. How the tragedy brought people together and how they are working to keep us all safe. Spread the message of peace, not violence and hatred, despite the emotions the incident stirred up inside of you.
Your tone and language matter
All children want to be reassured that everything is going to be fine. They can sense tension, fear and anger. Don’t talk to them about politics, especially if your kids are preschoolers. If you are dealing with much older kids, you can, but don’t forget to let them know that they are safe and fine. When you tell them about death, try not to say things like “they went to sleep” it can make them afraid of going to sleep. So be clear yet gentle and reassuring.
Were they bad people?
You know your child is going to ask you if the perpetrators were bad people. You need to inform them about bad behavior and bad influences. “The people involved in the terror attack did a bad thing and it hurt many people and their families,” is a much better way to answer this question rather than saying, “These were bad people and caused a lot of pain.” It will prevent them from getting all scare and anxious about bad people coming to get them.
Shield your children
When you explain to your child about the Paris terror attacks you can let them watch the news with you. But you will need to shield them from political relations and hateful reactions. It can cause them to become scared and hysterical. And, this what you need to protect them from. Inform them that there’s always hope and if you have hope, help it will come. There is no need to retaliate.
Use this as an opportunity to teach your child the importance of peace and understanding. How violence makes people sad and should be avoided at all costs to live together as a family and a community.