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How to Talk to Kids About Terrorism

It's a tough conversation to have with kids but it's important to have it.

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It can be difficult to explain terrorism to kids. After all, when such acts of violence don’t make sense to us, how on earth do you explain it to children?

Unfortunately, terrorism is a reality in the world we live in. And it’s important to broach the subject with your kids.

Shouldn’t We Protect Kids From Adult Problems?

You shouldn’t burden children with adult issues just for the sake of toughening them up. Your third-grader doesn’t need to know Grandma’s waiting on important test results and your sixth-grader doesn’t need to know the neighbor was caught having an affair.

But, your child is going to hear about real-world issues like terrorism in one place or another. Whether they catch a glimpse of the news or overhear kids on the bus talking about it, most kids know when tragedies strike.

It’s best that they hear about it from you. Then, you can ensure they are getting accurate yet age-appropriate information. You can also provide emotional support and use the experience as an opportunity to help your child learn how to cope with difficult circumstances.

Even if you think there’s no chance your kids will find out about a terrorist attack, it’s still important to talk about it. The conversations you hold will affect your child’s core beliefs about the world.

Many well-intentioned parents try to convince their kids that nothing bad will ever happen. But bad things do happen. That’s part of life.

So a healthier approach is to help kids learn that while hardship is inevitable, they’re strong enough to cope with whatever life throws their way. Learning how to cope with pain is an essential life skill.

What to Say to Kids

When it comes to talking to kids about difficult subjects like terrorism, simple and short is usually the best policy. Here are some examples of age-appropriate things you might say to your children:

  • Preschoolers – “A bad person chose to hurt other people. Now, there are lots of people helping the ones who got hurt and there are police officers working hard to keep us safe.”
  • School-Age Kids – “A bad person hurt some people and some of them died. There aren’t that many bad people in the world but every once in a while, a bad person does something terrible. Fortunately, there are a lot of police officers, doctors, and other people who are helping to take care of people who got hurt and they’re working hard to keep us safe.”
  • Teenagers – “There was another terrorist attack. What have you heard about it?” Let your teen do a lot of the talking. If you’re going to talk about religious or political motives, make sure you do so in a way that doesn’t cause your teen to think certain groups of people are all bad.

No matter how old your child is, share specific steps that are being taken to keep everyone safe. Additionally, talk about the kind acts that everyday citizens engage in to help people who are victims of terrorism.

You might even get your kids involved in becoming helpers. Write a thank you note to the police department, draw a picture for the first responders, or send a card to the victims. Empower your kids to see how they can do their part to make the world a better place.

Teach Your Kids to Deal With the Realities of Life

Rather than keep your children in a protective bubble, teach them how to care for their emotional wounds in a healthy manner. The best way to start that process is by engaging in conversation about emotions.

Assist your kids in identifying specific strategies that help them cope with the discomfort. While one child may enjoy writing in a journal, another one might find going for a walk helps her manage her emotions.

Become a mental strength coach who guides—rather than protects—your children. Sharpen their skills so they can grow up to become confident adults who trust in their ability to face a challenge square in the eye.

One of the 13 things mentally strong parents don’t do is shield kids from pain. So if you’re struggling to help your children turn their struggles into strength, work on building your own mental muscle. Mentally strong parents raise mentally strong kids.

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