On the way home in the car the other week, I forgot I had two children in the back seat listening to every word on the radio like me, and after switching to a bit of music, my 7-year-old asked “What is a terrorist?”
I had a moment of feeling like the worst mother ever. I was so engrossed in the recent horrible attacks in England and around the world that I neglected to remember I had children, and in that moment I knew I had to have THE conversation.
Luckily earlier that day I had a debrief with one of my besties who is a psychologist.
Here is what I have learnt:
1. It’s completely dependent on age
How much you you tell children is completely dependent on how old they are. If they are very young it is probably best to limit their exposure, but if they have seen or heard something in the school yard it’s best to address the issue. Create some time and space to talk to them.
2. Ask questions first
Turn it back on them. Ask them “what do you think happened?” or “what do you think a terrorist is?” That way you can get a gauge of what their knowledge is and not tell them anything they don’t need to hear but address what they are worried about.
3. Be honest
Kids are the ultimate bullshit detector. They know when you are telling them the truth and when you are not. The fine line is to answer their questions without burdening them with more information than they need. If you ask them what they know and give them honest answers to the questions they have in the kindest way you can, it will alleviate their fears.
4. They watch you
Stay as calm as you can. To kids we are the ones in the know so if we are losing it, then they probably will too.
5. Let them be kids
If they show no interest in talking about these kind of events and want to play blissfully unaware in the backyard – let them. You know your child better than anyone, let them be kids.
6. Make a difference
If they are affected by the event take the opportunity to show them how they can make a difference. Some schools have vans where you can donate food to refugees or donate money to a worthwhile cause. Action makes us feel less helpless and kids especially appreciate this.
How have you talked to your children about what is happening in the world?