Talking to Children About Terrorism | Giftie Etcetera: Talking to Children About Terrorism

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Talking to Children About Terrorism

I hate having to write this post. It makes me sad.

terrorism, baby holding mommy's hand, purple blanket

Back when my children were babies, I worried about war. I was concerned about whether my boys would one day join the military, with a father who had been Army National Guard. My godchild, only 19, is a Marine. I pray for him all the time. I knew that my wise, caring boys might follow his path someday.

But my kids are no longer babies, at ages 7 and 9.

So far, we've managed to avoid the topic of terrorism, violence, and war, except to assure them that the chances of my Marine godchild getting hurt in war are slim. 

We don't have cable television. My kids don't get to even watch broadcast television unattended. The closest they came to knowing about terrorism was hearing a prayer for peace in Mass.

Then Paris happened.

There's no way to shield the kids from such big news. Someone will mention it to them, and I want that someone to be me.

Some of the things that I plan to do might give you ideas. I welcome ideas from you in the comments, too. After all, I'm no expert. 

I'm just a mom, stumbling through parenting in a pretty scary world.

Let the kids share what they know.

As parents, we assume that our kids know more or less than they do. Sharing sheds a light on the actual extent of their knowledge and feelings about the situation.

Tell them age-appropriate truth.

You and I don't know if we will go to war. You and I don't know if America will be attacked. We just don't know.

It's okay to say that.

Say that the adults will do everything they can to keep everyone safe. Say that most people will never see violence touch their lives.

But don't promise something that you don't know.

Keep your statements honest, loving, and age-appropriate.

Have a safety plan.

Talk about safety. Review the school lock-down plan and your home safety plan. Teach them to call 911. Have them learn their addresses and phone numbers.

Having something concrete to learn helps a lot of kids feel more secure.

Give them other coping mechanisms.

Consider your kid and what helps him or her to cope with anxiety. 

Escaping to entertainment? Talking about it? Not talking about it? Writing letters to soldiers or politicians? Physical exercise? Deep breathing?

Give them some ways to cope with their fears and thoughts.

Focus on the helpers.

In every emergency situation, there are helpers.

Help them see those people.

Police officers, heroes who rescued people, people who jumped into the fray to help others survive...those are the people to focus on.

In every horrible act of terrorism, there are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Help your kids find and recognize those people. 

Give your kids the understanding that, at its core, humanity is loving and beautiful.


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Laura @ Life Is Beautiful said...

These are great, well-thought-out tips! Thank you for sharing! My husband and I just got married this year and we're realizing what a scary world it is for raising children!

Letting Fear Go said...

These are some practical ideas. I really like that you said to ask what they know first and also to focus on the helpers. My son is still a toddler, but I know that he will be understanding things soon.

Rose @ Walnut Acre said...

I think focusing on the helpers is so important in helping children understand that good is always greater than evil.

doodles n daydreams said...

I agree that finding out what they know, or think they know, is important. And it is surprising sometimes how even young children have a good grasp or understanding of what may be happening.


Jaime Barfield said...

With my kids being teenagers now, they often know more than i do about what is going on. My son gets a daily dose of actual news even though he is in 8th grade. I often try to tell myself they are too young to know about these things but it isnt true anymore. My daughter is only two years from adulthood now. It is hard to try to talk to even teens about things like this.

Pamela S said...

I agree with you that it is so sad to have to write a post like this. I wish every day that we could turn our world back to the days of Mayberry. My children are all grown but I have 13 grandchildren and wish the world could be safer for them. Good ideas from your post.

Anna said...

Those are really good tips. I wish that I could shelter my kids from some of the harsh realities of this world, but it's not possible (or healthy for them.)

We have been in some tense situations ourselves (living in Congo for 5-6 years.) I have found that it is important to let my kids know the basics, and encourage any questions. They are going to hear about things from their friends or hearing other adults talk- or maybe from the news. When they don't know what is going on, they often imagine something worse.

We are able to talk through some of what they are hearing, and explain the difference between facts and rumors. We don't have answers for everything, but it does make a huge difference for them to be able to talk things through.

One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that they will take their behavioral cues from you. Your example can help them react well, and also let them know that it is OK to grieve, to be angry, confused or hurt over things that are happening.

Jennifer@MyFlagstaffHome said...

Great post! I was teaching 6th grade when the Oklahoma City Bombing happened. I just let the kids talk and share what they had heard as well as what their parents had talked to them about. It's so difficult to watch children as they see things that make them realize the world isn't as safe as they thought. Thanks for sharing at My Flagstaff Home.


Jessica said...

I also hate that you had to write this, but you did a great job. I especially love the last one about looking at the helpers. Focus on the good, the love, those who are willing to lay down their lives (as Christ did for us). My kids are just a little too young to understand the reality of terror in the world, but when they're scared of the bad guy from a movie (in particular Maleficient from Sleeping Beauty), I always tell them that the good guy always wins. Prince Phillip has the Cross on his shield and Jesus always wins. Jesus is the ultimate "good guy" (haha) and He wins every time. So whenever they get scared, I tell them to make the Sign of the Cross and think of Jesus.
Thanks for sharing this with us for Tuesday Talk! I'll be saving it for when my kids get older! -Jess, Sweet Little Ones

Unknown said...

I think this is a great post with a lot of excellent ideas. I don't think any of can know for sure what to say or what we would do if it were us. I think your ideas are all spot on! I heard two Navy Seals in an interview talk about ways to protect ourselves. Two things I thought were of interest to me was the importance of running if at all possible in zig zag directions and also having one of those new very bright flashlights with you all the time (Most of them are small) and shining the light directly into their eyes as a way to slow someone down when we start running.

I think the truth is that we need to trust the Lord will be with us and show us the path to take if this ever happens for us, knowing that He never leaves us.


Helene said...

I really like the tip "share what they know." Kids often have misconceptions and need someone to listen to them and help them get everything straight!

She Yarns Crochet said...

Great advice. I always want to be the one who explains things to my kids. It doesn't always happen this way. Thanks for sharing with us at Funtastic Friday.

Being A Wordsmith said...

Thank you for sharing this post on #trafficjamweekend. I am featuring it for this weekend's party going live today.