How should we talk to children about terrorism? 5



I hate that this is something that I have to even think about, but I am a big believer in communicating and talking and we really would be in a better place if people just talked more rather than resorting to acts of terrorism, so how should we talk to children about terrorism?

Terrorism so hard to discuss with children because as adults we do not understand it. However, we need to talk to our children about terrorism.

Even if we shield our children from the news of events at home, they are still exposed to them in the playground and I think that we are doing them a disservice by not discussing them at home.  However, you know your children best so it is key that you tailor the information to them as you see fit.   The Charity Winston’s Wish has some great advice.

I find terrorism so hard to discuss with children because as an adult I do not understand or comprehend it.

I want my children to know that it is OK for them to talk to me about anything including terrorism. For them to be able to discuss their fears, feelings and ask questions.  I need them to know that no subject is out of bounds.

How should we talk to children about terrorism?

There is no right way for you to talk to YOUR children.  You need to judge how best to do that.  But I do believe that we should talk to our children about it and we should do it first before they hear about it from peers or social media.

Keep it age appropriate

As a rule of thumb with children under seven, it is best to only talk about if they bring it up.  It is much easier to shield younger children from external influences. Very young children really don’t need an in-depth explanation as they won’t be able to fully understand and it will only frighten them further try “All this news is because something very bad and very sad happened in Manchester”.

Older children are likely to want more information. Rather than shielding them from the news, I make sure I find an appropriate source of information for them.  We use BBC Newsround as an age-appropriate, less sensationalised source of information.  I think it is important to allow older children to watch the news but not let them become consumed by it, plus I am aware of how disturbing it can be so I always monitor and supervise it.

Ask and answer questions

Rather than giving out lots of information let your child ask questions.  Don’t assume you know how they feel. Instead, get at their understanding of what happened. They might be afraid or just curious. Listen to what they are saying and don’t interrupt. Don’t minimise or dismiss their concerns.  I tend to start with “I am pleased that you want to talk about this. Can you tell me what you have heard?”

“I am pleased that you want to talk about this. Can you tell me what you have heard?”

Keep your answers honest and simple and do not be afraid to let them know that you do not have all the answers.

Reassure them

you want to reassure your kids with your words and behaviour. So it is important to put it in perspective. I tell my boys that the reason it is on the news is that it doesn’t happen often.

“You know, the reason it’s on the news so much is because it’s such an unusual occurrence”

Then I try and focus on all the good people.

Fake News

I need to be sure that my children have accurate information and they are empowered to know the truth when they are talking to their friend and I do this by making sure that they have appropriate information source and that they steer clear of social media.  We use BBC Newsround as an age-appropriate, less sensationalised source of information.

End on a positive

I do not want my children to be scared so I try and always frame things in a positive way.  So I talk to them about acts of bravery, heroism and encourage them to always be kind to others. I want to empower them to be able to think about the future and be hopeful.  Having lived in the 70’s and been brought up with the IRA bombings I know just how important this is.  I never felt scared about visiting London after the bombings, my parents always made me feel secure and this is what I want for my children.

Do not forget to give your kids a big hug

Terrorism so hard to discuss with children because as adults we do not understand it. However, we need to talk to our children about terrorism.

Mumsnet has some great advice here as does Sue Atkinson

Terrorism so hard to discuss with children because as adults we do not understand it. However, we need to talk to our children about terrorism.

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5 thoughts on “How should we talk to children about terrorism?

  • Jaime Oliver

    It is so sad we have to have these conversations with our children but I am glad I talked to Joshua this morning as the first thing a boy in the playground did was start talking about it. We talked about it again tonight and will keep on talking about it as i think it helps to process things sometimes

  • Fozia S

    Thanks for sharing.

    As a muslim I also have to reassure my child if she gets abuse off other children for being muslim seeing as some people have the mentality that all muslims are terrorists. Sadly some parents are teaching hate and I have to prepare her for that.

    • Jen Walshaw Post author

      This upsets me so much. I am teaching my boys tolerance and love wins. Hate gets people nowhere. I can not imagine what you are having to say and how you can deal with that sort of bile. Sending love.

  • Kate Williams

    It’s so important to tell our kids the truth about these things too – I really remember being in school and my friends mum telling her that the Iraq war wasn’t real. Didn’t help 🙁

  • Susan Mann

    It has been heartbreaking speaking to the kids about this. I have always told them to look for the helpers and that good will always outweigh evil. They didn’t understand why, but then who does. It is important to talk to them I feel and you are right, we are raising the generation to love x

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