parenting

How do we talk to our kids about Manchester?

Last night, well after I’d tucked her in and gone to bed, Babygirl got up and wandered downstairs. She loves to hang out with Daddy, watching sports, and she’ll fall asleep on the couch. But Hubby was watching CNN coverage of the suicide bombing in Manchester, England. Of course as soon as she padded in, so quiet in her footie fleece pajamas, he quickly flipped the channel to basketball. But, did she catch any of the clip showing people screaming and panicking? 

Tonight, Hubby and I were quietly discussing the event, sharing our horror that the attack seemingly targeted women and girls. Babyboy was almost asleep, so we thought. But, did he hear us, and the worry in our voices?

Kids will inevitably pick up bits and pieces of events like this, and it can be confusing and scary for them. While they can’t possibly understand it all, we can help them to make sense of it and to feel safe. We need to provide some explanation and guidance, as well as model a healthy reaction. 

How do we do this? There’s several helpful articles out there. Parents magazine has just published a brief but excellent guide: “How to talk to kids about terrorism“. Parenting experts share their recommendations for kids of various ages. 

I really like their advice for parents of younger children, like ours. First, gently find out what your kids already know about what’s going on, and then offer a simple, child’s level explanation, along with plenty of reassurance. Like, “Some bad people got angry and hurt some other people, and it makes us sad. But the police and firefighters came and they’re helping everyone. It’s all over, and we’re all safe now.” They suggest letting kids express emotions and ask questions. 

The BBC has an article on this as well, and they stress that if kids have picked up on something going on, it’s best to talk it. No need to share scary images or violent details. Let the child ask questions. Keep answers simple, with a focus on reassurance. 

These tips make sense, and I’m glad to have some guidance. 

3 replies »

  1. Thanks for sharing. I also wonder how to talk to my girls about what is going on in the world. The more I don’t disclose or explain, the more curious they become. We need to know when to start a “therapy” session with them. Let them express themselves and explain in simple words what happened. It’s important not to disguise the event but also explained in words appropriate for their level. Sometime it ain’t so easy.

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  2. It’s a bad news conversation. You have those skills – you teach those skills. You know how to vary your language to someone’s ability to understand, and respond empathically. It’s SO MUCH harder with our kids – it helps me to remember that I can use my professional skills.

    My daughter (17) texted me to tell me about Manchester. She’s not a huge Ariana Grande fan, but she’s been to two Justin Bieber concerts and it was all to easy to put herself into that crowd. I wish I could reassure her and tell her the world is a safe place. I wish she would believe me. When we talked about, and she said “I feel like I don’t want to go anywhere because you never know where someone might have a bomb,” I almost cried. I finally said “The only way I can cope is by trying to worry about things I have no control over, and choosing not to live my life in fear.” It’s getting much more difficult.

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