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Tough Talk Tuesday: How to Talk to Your Children about Terrorism

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Following last week’s devastating attacks in Brussels, I began to realize that in today’s world, terrorism is no longer a topic we can avoid talking about—even with our children, who we long to protect from such atrocity. Likely they know bits and pieces of what has been going on, from learning about 9/11 in their history classes and seeing news of ISIS all over the media, but how do we approach these topics in a more personal way?

Of course, the conversation you have with your child will depend on their age, but seeing as I focus on writing for children around the age of 9, this article is going to focus on that particular age range. Here are some ways I thought of to best handle such a far-reaching and emotional topic of conversation.

Start by asking what they’ve heard. Many times, information will be spread around their school by other kids who may have overheard their parents discussing the attacks, seeing their parents watch the news, or from posts on social media. The problem with this is that often times the information will be scattered, unclear, and maybe exaggerated to a point where your child could feel more scared than they need to about the situation. A good way to start your conversation would be to come to a clear point about what they know about an attack, and about terrorism in general, and then set the story straight if any of their information is incorrect.

Don’t diminish their feelings about the situation. Whether they know an exaggerated story or the full truth, likely your child is going to feel scared about what they know. Don’t tell them not to worry about it or that their fear is misplaced—it is better to be honest with them in saying that other people are scared by what’s happening too, and that their feelings are understood.

Show them the “good side.” Much of what your child knows at this point in life is that there is bad, and there is good. This has been emphasized in the TV shows and movies they watch, the books they read, and the stories they’ve been told; there are bad people, but the good people win. After they know that feeling fear is normal, let them know that there are police, community leaders, military, and a government working to protect all of us. Show them pictures of people lighting candles, laying out flowers, and coming together after a tragic event. Remind them that there is good in the world, and that the stories they know about good winning are true.

Finally, be an open book (only about the necessary facts). Answer their questions. Why does this happen? Is it going to happen to us? Be honest—give them the information they need, and only that. Don’t go into detail about all the bad things terrorist groups do, don’t show them any gruesome pictures, and don’t scare them into believing that an attack can happen at any moment. End every one of your answers by reminding them about the good side, and the good people working to keep them safe. This is an uncertain area of life, but your children need to be certain that they are loved and protected.

When I think about what children need to know about terrorism, I think of the video below:

There are bad guys everywhere, but the flowers and candles are here to protect us.


Have you had a conversation with your child about terrorism? Let me know how you would handle it in the comments below.


The Role Empathy Plays in Parenting (And How You Can Gain More of It)

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Mother speding time with small daughter  -playing with dandelions

A recent article from claimed that one of the most important, vital characteristics of a good parent is empathy.

The article makes a good case; a parent who can know and understand what their children are feeling are better prepared to help them when they are hurting, find joy with them in their highs, and bond with them on a deeper level. An empathetic parent won’t have their children grow up to say, “My parents just never understood me.”

Many parents have the tendency to be annoyed by their children’s many observations of the world around them. After all, what is new to a child has been seen and understood a thousand times by his parent. But rather than rolling our eyes or sweeping past the tears of a heartbroken ten-year-old, or fallen and hurt toddler, an empathetic parent will take these moments to acknowledge, understand, and heal their child so they are better prepared to handle themselves in the future.

I found this article and this idea particularly interesting, because as many studies have revealed, one of the best ways to learn empathy is through reading literature.

Books and stories help to put in the shoes of someone entirely different than ourselves, see the world from a new perspective, learn things and feel things we hadn’t ever come face-to-face with in our own lives. So what better way to incorporate more empathy into your parenting than to read children’s books? These books can help those of us who may feel long-past our youthful days to see the world from a child’s perspective again, and therefore better understand and empathize with our children. We might not remember what it’s like to be abandoned by our friends at the lunch table, or be bullied by a group of popular kids, or to have a crush write us a note during recess. But children’s books can help us to understand those feelings again.

Better yet, why don’t we read these books with our children. That way, if your child finds something in the book particularly relatable, it will open up a discussion between the two of you. You will come to better understand your child, and you’ll still be learning more and more empathy along the way.

Do you feel that empathy is a valuable component of parenting? How do you demonstrate this to your children? Let me know in the comments!

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