Recently, a terrorist drove two kilometers through a crowd of people celebrating Bastille day in Nice, France, killing at least 84 people and injuring many more, leaving the area strewn with bodies; even those who managed to flee were emotionally traumatized.
How do you explain such acts of intentional hurt to your child? Should you, at all?
Definitely – hiding frightening events from children or only revealing partial information to them might make them even more confused and frightened than the truth when explained simply and clearly.
Here are some tips to explain terror attacks around the world to your child.
1. Show that you’re willing to talk about it
Even if you’re not! Understandably, it’d be a parent’s natural instinct to hide their child from danger, or even the idea of danger.
Avoid changing the subject when your child asks about such incidents – it’ll only make them more confused, especially given how curious they are at their age.
Show them that it’s okay to talk openly about difficult things, including death – it’ll foster a trusting relationship between you and your child that’ll allow them to open up to you about their personal problems in the future, too.
2. Use honest, direct language
Avoid using euphemisms such as “going away” instead of “died”.
Expect more questions – your kid may then probe even more about death and dying, and what happens after death – and answer them as honestly and age-appropriately as you can.
3. Monitor where they get their information
Younger kids, especially, are not ready to comprehend the violence involved in terror attacks and why innocent people were killed. They receive these news much better from a comforting source – you – than from the news itself.
The media tends to replay dramatic, unsettling clips of recent attacks in their reports – make sure your child doesn’t see what they, given their age, are not ready for, or be there with them when watching these news clips. Your child can’t “unsee” things!
4. Stick to the facts
Terror attacks these days are tangled up in a slew of other religious or political issues and more – all of which can make your account of the incident biased.
Separate fact from belief, and be objective when explaining the attacks to your child. For instance, if your child asks “What is a terrorist?”, you can tell them that a terrorist is someone who tries to hurt others to make people afraid.
Most importantly, make the distinction between the beliefs and actions of the few individuals committing these acts of terror, and that of the great majority of people who share their ethnic background, religion, or other identity traits.
5. Reassure them
Especially if they’ve previously experienced bereavement, etc
Find out what’s causing their distress, and address the issue. They might want to know if they’ll be okay, if it’ll happen again, and so forth.
Reassure them not just with your words, but with your actions too – hug them, show them that you’re ready for an emergency by going through your emergency plan, for instance.
Put things in perspective. The reason why terror attacks are on the news so much is because they’re such unusual occurrences – your kid can rest easy knowing that the world is largely a safe place.
6. Focus on the positive
Terrorists and violent people are scary, but there are also the brave efforts of the army, police, medical providers and even civilians that are helping in the aftermath, and even preventing such attacks from happening everywhere, every day.
Emphasize hope and positivity to give your child a sense of security.
By Pinky Chng, July 2016