With reports of terrorist activity making headlines everywhere and plastering our television, computer and phone screens, it is becoming more and more difficult to shield our children from the carnage and fear that is filtering into our cultural psyche. How should we best handle the conversation with our children about the reality of terrorism without making them overly fearful?
- Do not assume your child feels the same way you do. With limited life experience, your child does not have the experience or tools to process and understand the why or how of terrorist activity and motivation the way you do.
- Ask the child how he feels. Listen and do not judge or deny his feelings, whatever they may be. Validate his feelings by acknowledging them, and let him know that they are normal. Make sure to share your feelings honestly, as well.
- It’s not what you say, but what you don’t say. The worst thing to do is to confuse the child by saying one thing and doing another. To say that you are not afraid but then change your patterns and not got to the movies, say, or avoid large venues like Soldier’s Field would send a conflicting and confusing message that would actually cause the child to be more fearful.
- You are not doing your child any favors by protecting him from dealing with life on life’s terms. However, only expose your child to as much gory detail as is necessary. Try and keep young children up to at least 13 away from any media that would depict those details, if at all possible. However, if your child has seen or heard reports of suicide bombers or gruesome beheadings, do not deny that those things are real. Always tell the truth so you establish a firm trust with your child.
- Teach your child to be cautious and aware of his surroundings, but don’t stop living your life and doing the things you want to do. Assure your child that you and the other authorities in his life- teachers, principals, police- are all aware of the situation and doing their best to protect them.
- Emphasize how thankful we are to be living in a country that is relatively safe compared to other areas in the world and reiterate that the chances of being affected directly by terrorist activity is very slim.