|The symbol, by Jean Julien, became an icon of the conflict. How do we explain for the kids?|
By Anna M.
"Mom are they going to try to do the same here?" _ asked my 10 years old son. My answer was that because the country has so many people taking care of our safety, there's no immediate evidence of risk. I measured every millimeter of my words, so not to engulf him in too many details, but yet to offer him some sense of control, but not deceptive answers. His response was positive; "Yes, I remember all the airport safety procedures when we travel abroad", he said.
It breaks my heart to write this post. Yes, it would be better if it never ever happened, so that we wouldn't have to share the news with the little ones. But the truth is... that a fact is fact and ...is a fact. We are far from the Dark Ages, so, I thought, there's no judgement or misdoing involved on sharing the news with them. But that was my gut feeling at the very moment I received a news alert in my laptop warning about the attack in Paris.
When the towers of World Trade Center towers were destroyed, I didn't have children. I watched the news paralyzed, in despair, in a newsroom where I used to work. Minutes later my thoughts were blinded and frozen by interrogations and the difficulty of absorbing the size of the tragedy. My thoughts, a day later, were about how kids would grow up under that shadow. And how we would reinvent the concept of safety. It took me so many years to get to accept the dimension of that. Even being raised in one of the most violent countries in the world didn't make me feel at ease about any act of terrorism that kill civilians with no right to defend themselves.
Both of our sons, 8 and 10, are highly interested in the news. As a journalist, I couldn't refrain from reading all the papers online, from Le Monde to the NYT, including all news agencies I used to consult while being a foreign correspondent. The boys were curious, and while I was checking if our Paris friends were safe, they also were relieved when I said they were fine. My husband, also an experienced citizen of the world, also defended that they should have access to what was happening. And, weirdly enough, we both caught ourselves sharing our impressions of what we knew about the Paris attack, telling them mainly about the facts, and not the graphic details about the carnage.
They will find about it anyway _ That was the main reason I immediately told them about what was going on. I want to raise kids who are able to belong to the world we currently are living in. I would be totally worried if they had to ask someone else at school and who maybe have had different ideas or prejudice embedded in their ideas. carrying some prejudice embedded in it. So I am glad I did. I asked Daphna Ram, PhD Psychology at from Cornell, and POVI"s psychologist, what were her thoughts about it: "And I think sometimes parents have this idea that they're protecting their kids by not sharing things with them, but how can your kids trust you if you're not going to be real about what's going on?", she says.
Bring your Warmest Feelings _ Children are persons on in the making, and I think in difficult and harsh situations, reassurance is a very good thing to bring up. A child who is loved, has a strong foundation of a well build self-esteem and resilient resilience has more of a chance son of becoming a fair and balanced grown up. So by any means, make them believe that you are doing your best to protect them: "I can't think of a necessarily appropriate age to talk to kids about these things, but I do think that whenever these things are discussed, warmth + reassurance + care + calming are necessary. If the parent isn't freaking out, the child won't freak out.", adds Daphna Ram.
Bad Guys do Exist _ This is a hard one. It's is ultimately indisputable that that was the work of not very kind people, who believed that, unfortunately, that was the right thing to do in their own terms and beliefs. And that's nothing I can arguedispute with. Both my husband and I intuitively avoided to labellabeling the sources of violence, and went through a brief explanation of the history from the WWI to WWII. We also wanted to answer their questions about some conflicts.
That's Why we don't Play with Guns _ I took the opportunity to explain to the boys why we don't have toy guns in the house, and would never consider having a fire arm. For me, fire arms (one they are here to stay up to the end of civilization as we know it) should be restricted to the Army and Police. I didn't have to go further. They all had visited the eerie Winchester Mystery House, built by the heiress of the rifle company, and know that in Brazil, where most of our family is, the guys who use guns are drug dealers and the police.
Tell them You Love Them _ That one is between me and you. I don't want to say that openly so they won't fear that I am saying this just because the end of the world is near. What I am talking about is that children who feel loved and appreciated will talk. They will know they have someone to talk to about their fears. Sometimes, that love doesn't have to be explicitly stated but will be shaped in the form of a dialogue, a conversation, time for attention. That's when we will probably be the best parents ever, even in the times of adversity.
*Anna Muggiati is POVI's Content Manager, and helps to keep the Emotional Intelligence for Kids Facebook Page. She lives in the Silicon Valley with her husband, 2 sons and 5 cats. She is a journalist and Master in International Studies by The University of Birmingham (UK). She is passionate about the environment, cooking healthy food, and music.
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