Monday, 16 November 2015

How do you talk to your children about Paris?

My older son was lying in bed with us on Saturday morning when we turned on the radio. We knew nothing about the events in Paris, having been driving down the M4 the night before and not watching any evening news. So when we heard the headlines we were naturally jolted awake, and he, who doesn't always listen to the news, was hearing it all avidly too.

He's 10 now, and he's been asking questions recently about Isis, as some of his friends are apparently talking about it at school following the Egyptian air disaster. Some of what he comes home with has been a little misinformed (eg Isis bombed the Twin Towers) but he understands the gist of it. And yet, he doesn't.

How do you explain to a primary school kid what motivates terrorists? And even more, how do you reassure them that they, and their loved ones, are not going to be affected? To tell them that "it couldn't happen here" feels disingenuous. We all know that it has happened in London, and surely will again.

I have told him now about the 2005 attacks, which happened just after he was born. He also knows about 9/11, having been recently to the Peace Garden in New York. But he still can't get his head round why people actually did these things. He's a gentle child, who dislikes seeing or hearing about any kind of violence (he doesn't even want to see the new James Bond film), so he does find it very upsetting. 

A friend posted this article on Facebook, in which a psychologist explains that you need to reassure the child that they are safe. But I sometimes feel as if the more we talk about these things, the more it makes them feel unsafe. I'm trying to walk the line here between not hiding things from him, not making him feel that I'm world-weary on the subject and at the same time reassuring him.

I find it even harder to talk to his younger brother, 8, about it all. The questions come thicker than the answers with him, and it's harder with him to know what he's thinking afterwards. And I do want to make sure he's not secretly worrying.

How does anyone else cope? 


Jen said...

I asked just turned 12 year old if the news made him feel worried and he said a bit, I explained that there's always people wanting to do as things, that his dad and I lived through the IRA attacks and they were right on our doorsteps, that his grandparents lived through the Cold War and indeed one set through WWII and that we have to live our lives and assume it won't happen to us. That it's a minority of people, and the odds are against it happening to us, and imagine living life in fear of it then it doesn't happen, what a waste. He seemed to take it on board. I left nearly 17 year old to process it herself, she has enough anxieties around ALevels and student finance to worry about anything outside her bubble I think!

ADDY said...

I barely understand it myself, as I have just blogged myself, let alone explain to a child. Words just fail me.

Iota said...

It's really hard to know what to say or not to say. How to live reasonably with risk is a hard enough concept for an adult, let alone a child. I try to limit the news in the house. It's ok to know about what's happened, but I don't think it's healthy to see images over and over again, and to have a news feed endlessly focusing your attention on it.

Do people let 10 year olds see James Bond films?

nappy valley girl said...

Iota - i didn't think so either but apparently most of the boys in his class have seen it. (or at least are talking about it as if they've seen it). He has no desire to.

MTFF said...

We have been talking about it with our kids but they, thankfully, do not seem concerned that they themselves are unsafe. I suppose that is because we live in such a blissful corner of the world where almost nothing bad ever seems to happen that they can't conceive of it reaching them personally. My eight year old feels upset that there are 'baddies' out there and (rather sweetly) asked if James Bond was going to help get rid of them. My eleven year old said, emphatically, that she wasn't afraid of terrorists because why would they bother coming to Santa Barbara unless they wanted to chill out and surf. Can't argue with that logic

MsCaroline said...

#1 was in primary school (he was 8) when 9/11 took place, and old enough to ask questions. What we told him was that the terrorists were bullies who were trying to scare people and that there were far more good, kind people than there were bullies in the world. We also told him that the government, the police, and regular community members all wanted to do everything they could to keep him and other citizens safe, and would work their hardest to make sure that happened and that the bullies wouldn't come back. He seemed content with that and (although he was a chronic worrier as a child) didn't ever ask if something like that might happen to him or what about if the bullies came back. If he had, though, I would have told him the truth: that the people in charge (including every adult he knew) wanted to keep him safe and make sure it didn't happen again, and that the chances were very, very small (and, if you read the statistics, it's true; 1 in 20 million, I think.) I wasn't teaching in 2001, but if I had been, I probably would have spent some time talking to my students about the huge numbers of people who wanted peace and condemned such actions. That's one of the things that does make me feel better, truly; knowing that these 'bad guys' are truly in the minority.

Unknown said...

Perfectly timed post, was just wondering how to do exactly that. Agree that we need to explain it in simple terms (easier said than done, I know) and reassure them that we'll look after them.