Westminster Bridge Westminster Bridge

Talking to Kids about Terrorism

Wed, Jul. 26, 2017
With terrorist attacks increasingly taking place around the world, children are inevitably subjected to the news, being constantly exposed to social media, television or adults discussing the events. Children are left with many questions about death, pain, who terrorists are and why some people kill in the name of Islam. Dr. Georgette Savvides, counselor and psychologist with a doctorate in counselling psychology from City University in London and another from the Southern California University in the US, speaks to us on how much to share with kids about terrorism, when to speak to your child and just how to deal with questions on religion and killing.

At what age should we not keep them sheltered from what’s happening and sit them down and explain terrorism?

It’s appropriate to exchange information and have conversations with children starting the age of 9. Children today are by far more open, and exposed and they understand so much more than what we expect. However, it is important to put things in a manner in which their still-growing minds can accept it, explaining the facts only and answering their inquisitive questions to the point truthfully. As parents, sharing your emotional side of the story, how it makes you feel and how concerned, scared, worried you are is not productive and will teach the child that life is scary and is to be feared, which can have an impact on their sense of security and safety towards their surroundings.

What about younger children? Do you believe we should keep them sheltered?

I do not believe in sheltering children at all. I think it is best to always be truthful to children, but share the amount of information that they can cognitively comprehend, allowing them room to question you and answering these questions honestly. Do not go talking politics to a child, but explain that, at times, these disagreements between points of view happen and they can lead to things that are not good.

How should parents answer questions like why people kill in the name of religion in a way that doesn’t traumatize them but also doesn’t mislead them?

Although it has been widely believed that religion is the reason behind the killings and children could have heard this from other sources, it is important to explain that religion actually aims differently. Parents need to explain the values of religion and its teachings. Provide the child with information that will build and encourage the child to feel safe in their religion and honestly explain that the choices of killing made under the name of religion are not correct.

How would you advise parents to deal with the post-traumatic stress of a terrorist incident like those that have been recurring lately?

Ensuring the routine is the same, having planned fun activities with children and allowing them to ask questions. Explain to them honestly and simply the truth about the matter, while at the same time stressing that they are safe and things are business as usual. If the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) persist and start affecting the day-to-day functioning of the child, then they need to seek professional help.
There are no comments on this article.

Leave a comment