Today , as I travelled in a taxi with my 8 year old , the driver spoke to me about the recent attacks in Manchester and London. Justifiably shocked and upset about what has happened himself, he detailed the events ,oblivious to my sons wide eyes.
As parents today we are faced with the challenge of explaining violence, terrorism, and war to children. Although difficult, these conversations are extremely important. They give us an opportunity to help our children feel more secure, and understand the world in which they live.
How can we even begin to answer their questions when we don’t know the answers ourselves? How can we ease their fears , if we’re feeling fearful ourselves?
- Remember that children tend to personalise situations. For example, they may worry about friends or relatives who live in a city associated with incidents or events.
- Use words your child can understand. Make your explanation appropriate to your child’s age and level of understanding.
- Give children honest answers and information.
- Be prepared to repeat explanations or have several conversations. Some information may be hard to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may be your child’s way of asking for reassurance.
- Acknowledge and support your child’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let your child know that you think their questions and concerns are important.
- Don’t confront your child’s way of handling events. If a child feels reassured by saying that things are happening very far away, it’s usually best not to disagree. The child may need to think about events this way to feel safe.
- Remember that children learn from watching their parents and teachers. They are very interested in how you respond to events. They learn from listening to your conversations with other adults.
- Let children know how you are feeling. It’s OK for them to know if you are anxious or worried about events.
- Avoid stereotyping groups of people by race, nationality, or religion. Use the opportunity to teach tolerance and explain prejudice.
- Don’t let children watch lots of violent or upsetting images on TV. Repetitive frightening images or scenes can be very disturbing, especially to young children.
War and terrorism are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, many children feel confused, upset, and anxious.
It’s difficult to see your child frightened , for younger children you can probably shield them from the news , but for older children who might see something on television or the internet , have friends bring it up at school, or even a taxi driver bring it up after a lovely day out, it’s good to have a plan in place of how you can approach it with them if it comes up.
As I often do in my parenting, I drew on what I have learnt whilst studying NLP but mostly on my parental instincts. Knowing my son , I knew if I brushed it off and never offered a deeper explanation once we got home , he would internalise the taxi drivers fear based racist comments .
Think about how as adults, we interpret things differently at times. For example, two people could experience the same trauma but form entirely different beliefs , and have entirely different take aways from the experience. This is due to the fact that all people have different “mental maps;” it is the same way with children.
So , here’s how I approached it with my son , of course , you know your child (and how they process upsetting news) best:
Helping your child look for heroes can help them to focus on the goodness within humanity instead of giving into fear.
I showed my little boy the interview with Chris Parker , the heroic homeless man who rushed to help the victims at Manchester Arena . I explained that for every cruel thoughtless act carried out by a human , there are many kind thoughtful acts carried out by humans. I explained that we can only ever control our own actions. That by choosing to look at the light , choosing to live in the light and refusing to take a racist viewpoint , refusing to cite words of retaliation , war and refusing to engage in scare mongering gossip , we strangle the fire. We can’t control others actions , we cant make whats happened go away , but we can choose to breathe our energy only in the direction of good and if ever faced with a situation like Chris Parker was on May 22 2017, we can choose to be helpers and heroes.
We used EFT (emotional freedom technique) tapping , to help him let go of the fear that had accumulated in his body from hearing about the events. For more on EFT tapping check out this link.
Since my son had heard a lot of racist comments toward Arabs and particularly towards the Muslim fate I felt it was important to address this by reading a little about Islamic beliefs here and asked him to draw his own conclusions, he of course concluded as do I :
We are humans , and religion is not what divides us. Hatred breeds hatred. Violence breeds violence. But , more importantly , heroism breeds heroes , kindness breeds kindness – love breeds love.