Should I Talk To My Children About The News?
After the recent atrocities in Manchester and London, I found myself, like many, questioning the world in which we live. How can any human being do something so horrendous to another human being? And like many, I came to the conclusion that unfortunately we are not dealing with human beings that have an understanding of love, compassion and empathy, but people who have had their minds twisted and warped so they no longer believe that what they're doing is wrong. Whatever the reasons behind these abominable attacks, as a mother, I have thought about how much of the information on the news I should be telling my child.
I believe honesty is best where possible but I'm also aware that my child deserves a childhood – one where he can believe in anything, feel safe and secure and know that he can achieve anything he puts his mind too. In telling him everything about the recent attacks I worry that it will not lead to anything positive, but it may lead to him feeling worried, anxious and vulnerable. As a parent our role is to protect and nurture our children, giving them the best possible start in life. In giving my son a belief that he is safe, I believe, that he will become a more confident, happier version of himself. Balance this with a need to know about the world that we live in and you can see the very difficult line that parents have to tread.
These recent events unfortunately are nothing new. Throughout history there have been terrible events, both man made and natural, that have caused death and despair. Our grandparents lived through a World War, our parents through the Cold War and I remember the IRA bombings in the nineties. I was 11 at the time of the 1996 attack on Manchester. My parents spoke to me about this dreadful attack, discussing history, human nature, the fact that there are good and bad people in the world and emphasising the need to try to be good. Now a mother myself, I find my child asking the same questions.
In a recent BBC article, Consultant clinical psychologist Emma Citron, who specialises in children and trauma, said the following:
"Give children basic facts, tell them what it is they want to know, ask them what they would like to know and then give them access to that," she says.
"Support them and comfort them and be there for them, hug them, cry with them if they're crying, just respond to how they're responding emotionally.
"Take the lead from them - we need to know what it is they want answers to."
Obviously, how much you should say or not say depends on lots of things. Not least, the age of your child, the temperament of your child, your own beliefs and wishes when it comes to parenting and the environment in which you live. It may be that you feel it best to switch the news off and not discuss recent events with your child, which is completely understandable. Just be aware that if your child is of school age they are likely to hear about major incidents through friends or teachers. You may prefer that they hear it from you, giving them the opportunity to ask any questions in a safe, secure environment and hear answers from someone they love and trust.
These attacks show the worst of human nature, but they also show the best too. Focusing on the acts of kindness, bravery, humility and strength seen all around at times of crisis can be a way of taking something positive from something so dreadful. Helping your child to focus on these more positive human behaviours can make discussing the news a little easier.
However you choose to deal with the news, you know what is best for your child and your family. I'm going to leave you with one of my favourite quotes that seems very fitting at this time:
'Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.' - Martin Luther King Jr
Written by Louise Daniel