Talking To Your Children About Terrorism
Created by Swapna Nair Updated on Sep 27, 2020
My neighbours were planning a vacation to the beautiful state of Kashmir. Suddenly their 7 year old piped in to say that Kashmir isn’t safe. It is a land of terrorists according to him. We then set out to talk to him. He was soon convinced to go on the trip. The most important thing that the mother did was not to brush his fears aside.
How To Approach
The present day media loves to sensationalise events. We take natural disasters in our stride but violent acts of humans against humans leave us shocked and pained. Imagine how it would be for a child.
Find out how much your child knows - When such an event occurs do not attempt to brush it off. Instead talk. Even if you do not tell your children they would know from their friends Internet or the Television. Have a conversation. Keep your tone neutral. Ask them what they know about the event. Please do not interrogate them as this will prevent them from confiding.
Verify the facts and sources- Explore the sources and facts. Guide them on fake news or fake data. Talk to them on facts depending on their age. Sensitive children may not wish to see or hear. Some are very curious so tell them only what is suitable for their age.
Limit television- The television impacts a thousand times more than a newspaper with its constant explosion of visuals. Hence it would be wise to limit your news watching when the children are around. Try to watch when they are at play or after they are asleep. The gory images could be very disturbing to the tender minds.
Emotion coaching- Help your child verbalise his/her fears and feelings. ‘I know you are shocked/distraught.’ They may have nightmares or they may go into a shell on seeing/hearing such news. They would imagine the worst happening to them and fear that they or their parents would be targeted. Remain calm while talking to them. Seeing you handle your emotions will be a teachable moment. They would have so many questions. Answer each gently and patiently. Please don’t laugh at their queries or tease about it. If you do not answer they would seek answers from peers and the Internet which could be harmful.
Secular and open mind-set- Our Constitution has decreed that we are a secular nation. Hence it is important to bring up our children with a secular outlook for future peace. Let us be the role models for our children. If we can be cautious about not branding or labelling people based on religion/caste/gender then we are ensuring an open mind-set. Most of the stereotypes in the society are picked up by children at home. There would be questions like- why are doing this? Why kill children, why do they hate us etc.Tell them that not all people are bad. Yes something bad has happened. It is not a common occurrence. Tell them that the police/army /government would look into it. This would make them think that there is a solution too. It would ensure a realistic approach then pessimistic. During such tragedies point out the heroes, the positive action taken by the community/ authorities. Avoid political and religious discussions that would breed hatred or fear.
Safety- You could point out measures on safety while on the road, public spaces and school. They ought to know what to do in an emergency. They ought to know your phone numbers. Teach them not to pick up strange objects or bags.
Death – There would be a lot of questions on death. Answer closest to the truth depending on their age.
Trauma – Look out for physical symptoms like headache/stomach ache, nausea, improper sleeping patterns, bed wetting etc. Anything unusual during such times means you have to be on the alert. The child is facing some stress due to the trauma. Intervene immediately. If needed do consult a counsellor.
Activities – use activities like art, music. martial art, dance to distract children. These are also wonderful activities for them to express their insecurity, fear and stress.
Most important is to keep having an open channel of communication so that they can approach you during their difficult moments.
| Oct 01, 2018
children get curious on hearing such sensationalised topics.. and they seek more information. the more one would try and hide facts, the more would be their curosity to find answers to their questions. definitely an important topic ,put up so well. thanks for sharing.
| Aug 27, 2021
Thank you so much for this write-up. It is so relatable. I worry though, for parents and caregivers who are traumatized by terrorism and banditry. How can parents who are victims of these crimes reach out and help their even more victimized or vulnerable children. A follow-up article on what parents who have experience terrorism personally should do, would really help here. Bless you.
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