How To Talk To Your Child When Terrorism Is In The News

Posted: February 19, 2019
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The news is everywhere – and there is nothing you can do to stop your kids from coming to know of the violence that happens in the world. How do you talk to them and make them feel safe?

The whole nation is reeling with distress in the aftermath of the horrific attack on CRPF jawans in Pulwama Kashmir. It’s hard to fathom the agony of a family, seeing mortal remains of their own wrapped in tricolor. Makes one seethe in anger and rightly so, but amidst the entire tragedy how are our children coping with all the news of violence, and how do we deal with it?

Children perceive inhuman, violent information differently from grownups. While adults are able to logically analyze and express their sadness and anger, children are unable to do so.

Little kids on seeing graphic images on TV, or hearing their parents talking about such incidents might imagine that this is happening to them or might happen to their parents. They also don’t understand the concept of a footage shown on TV in a loop, and believe that the events are happening over and over again.

Even older kids get psychologically distressed by such news, and unable to make sense of things, can start exhibiting unusual behaviour. Children may become aggressive, clingy or rude. There have been instances of kids experiencing nightmares or bed-wetting episodes in the aftermath of traumatic events.

Kids will get to know about current happenings from news and media or other sources, and there’s often nothing we can do to stop that. But there are certain steps which we can take as responsible adults.

Very young children and babies

Children less than 3 years old are too young to understand and should be completely kept away from violent news. Switch off the TV to avoid any accidental graphic visuals. Babies are constantly observing us and easily sense our anxiety, even while they seem to be busy in playing, so it’s better to defer talking about such events when the kids are asleep or in another room.

School age children

For children above 3 years it is inevitable that they will hear about significant news from their friends, school, caretakers, or someone else. It is most important for parents to become the right source of information.

We can only hope for a world which is free from violence, but till then it is also not advisable to shield children and keep them in a cocoon. Not only there is a risk of them getting incorrect information, but also being ignorant of happenings around the world and growing up with wrong notions.

  • Be truthful but not scary. Tell your children about what happened in a calm, rational way. Limit visual exposure and give maximum information by talking.
  • Ask what your children already know and feel about the events, and assure them of your presence and a listening ear. Help them feel calm and safe.
  • Be a good role model. It is easy to get caught up in speculation, judgmental behaviour, and name-calling, especially in times like this. Instill national pride but not along with hatred. Children are too young to be fed ill-feelings against anyone.
  • Finally give your kids as many hugs as they need – and you need – in order to feel better. There are some unfortunate families who could not do so.

May the brave hearts who lost their life rest in peace, and God give strength to grieving families to bear the loss.

A version of this was first published here.

Image source: stills from the movie Uri

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