September 26, 2016

Why You Should Talk With Your Kids About Terrorism (and HOW to do so!)

Looking back through history, almost every generation in the United States has had to endure some kind of frightening foe to our humanity.  From wars, to encroached-upon civil rights, to economic depressions, there has always seemed to be some kind of threat to fear.  As Americans, past generations have risen above those fears and banded together to come out as stronger individuals and as a stronger nation. 

Today’s generation faces a foe that is both similar and drastically different than those in the past – this threat is known as “terrorism.”  While the idea of terrorism isn’t something unique to the current generation, the ability to reach people and instill fear on a wide-scale is.  In this age of constant connection via social media, and the internet as a whole, the threat can seem much more personal and real to all citizens in comparison to just hearing about problems on the 6 o’clock news.

In the days of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the atrocities committed in Nazi Germany, or the heartbreaking violence during the Vietnam War, parents had substantial control over what their children were exposed to about the events.  Televisions and radios were often turned off most of the day, front pages of newspapers could be tossed in the garbage, and children could go on living without fear.  Today, however, our children are exposed to news constantly – sometimes they even know things before we do!  As our country, and countries around the world, continue to experience attacks on our own soil, it is important to help children understand in a way that is appropriate, protective, and empowering.

Here is a list of 5 ways that you can have a conversation with your child about terrorism.

  1. Age-appropriateness is KEY. A 4-year old may have walked in when you were watching the news, or heard something on the radio that they just didn’t understand.  Rather than getting overly detailed, which could frighten and confuse them more, try saying something like this: “Some people were hurt by a few not-so-nice people.  They are going to get in trouble, and they won’t hurt you.” 
  2. Gauge what you share based on what they know about it. Older children, such as late-elementary age, may have heard kids at school talking about something that happened, possibly incorrectly.  Ask your child if they’ve heard about anything on the news lately, and talk with them in a way that fits their response.  It is important to make sure they understand and have accurate information, but they don’t need you to give a lot of scary facts if they don’t already know much.
  3. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t try to cover up or hide things that are going on, especially with middle and high school aged students.  At this age, if they don’t come to you, then bring it up to them.  Kids in this age can quickly develop anxiety and depression about things that frighten them, and often they are too embarrassed or prideful to bring it up on their own.  You very well may be afraid yourself, and that’s okay!  It will help your child to know that they aren’t being silly or “weak” for having fears – just make sure you strengthen and reassure them afterwards.
  4. Focus on the positives. Talk with your child about the many good people we have in our country who are there to protect them.  From military personnel, to law-enforcement officers and firefighters, and even their teachers, coaches, and of course, their parents, kids need to be aware of all the men and women who will work as hard as they can to protect them from the few who would try to harm us.
  5. Remind them of their strength. While they may not have control over random acts of terror, they do have power in many other aspects of their lives. Whether it be something as simple as looking both ways before crossing the street (for a younger child), standing up to bullies at school, buckling up in the car, or working hard at school, empower your child by highlighting all of the parts of their life in which they can be influential.

While this isn’t a fun or light-hearted topic to discuss with your children, having this conversation can help ensure that their childhood stays fun and light-hearted!  Our children are the bright light of our future, and empowering them with knowledge and resources can help preserve that light.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear.  Action breeds confidence and courage.  If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it.  Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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