Anne Perkins, a writer for The Guardian, writes in “How to talk with your children about the Paris attacks” that
In the US, where schoolchildren rehearse as a matter of course what to do if a random psychopath comes by with a submachine gun, some serious and intelligent thought has been given to the question of how to give your kids a chance to talk about what they’ve seen on the news or social media. The fundamental rule seems to be to give them the chance to tell you what they know and how they are processing it. Scary? Weird? Likely to happen to them? And where on the scale between interesting and the stuff of nightmares?
Depending on the age of the child, the conversation can be complex. Perkins gives as an example an approach from the French Le P’tit Libé:
…it does use the word serious, a much better word. It explains there are violent people who are full of hate and want everyone to see the world the way they see it, and their weapon of choice is fear. This is a very rough paraphrase of what they say next:
“Isis is a group of people like that. It says it’s attacking France in retaliation for its part in bombing Isis strongholds in Iraq and Syria. Everyone’s talking about it because that’s what people do when they are shocked. It’s natural. The French government wants to keep people safe, so for a few days, it wants to encourage people to stay at home and not go to school or the library. Some people will claim that all Muslims are bad but of course that is not true. Everyone wants to remember the people who died, hence the minute’s silence, and perhaps to light a candle in their memory.”
It’s about perspective, critical thinking and, in the end, comfort:
…encourage your children to develop a sense of proportion, to think about the nature of risk. More important, encourage them to think about what is being claimed, how they would argue against it, and what they think they could do to help resolve the problems as they understand them – and what the government could do too. Is bombing the answer? Is violence ever the answer?
And then go for hugs, teddy and the Paddington DVD.