How Can We Talk To Our Kids About The Massacres In Paris On Friday?


As we all know, and most of our children know, 132 people were brutally murdered in Paris on Friday night, allegedly by ISIS terrorists. Everyone shot was an innocent bystander, unconnected to ISIS or the ongoing unrest in Syria and other parts of the Mid East. They were killed attending a restaurant, a nightclub, and a soccer match. Unfortunately, these are all ordinary activities kids can readily identify with.

The Paris attacks are understandably terrifying to many kids. Which is why we parents need to talk to them about what happened. Even if our children seem fine and don’t mention anything about it.

“Information that might be merely upsetting to an adult can be seriously traumatic for children,” explains Dr. Yvette Alt Miller. It’s part of our job as parents to place the Paris events in context and help our children feel safe.

Here’s are five pieces of good advice about how to do so.

1) Remember our kids are kids. Not adults. Younger kids, like toddlers, will likely have no idea what they are looking at on TV or hearing adults or older siblings discuss. But slightly older kids, who have greater self-awareness and cognizance of the world, may be disturbed the most. Especially because they are not yet worldly enough to understand that the Paris attacks, even though well coordinated and possibly a part of a larger terrorist campaign, are rare, a discrete one-off, unlikely to occur again anywhere, including in Paris or anywhere closer to home.

2) Talk to your kids. Ask them what they think, hear and feel about the Paris attacks. Listen carefully, then offer accurate information in response. Offer simplified versions of the messages from the Pope, President Obama and French President Hollande. Consider the sympathetic and factual tone struck by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in explaining that the terrorists represent only religious extremists – not all Muslims or followers of Islam – and that we would be making a mistake by demonizing everyone from the Middle East: “Those who organized, who perpetrated, the attacks are the very same people who the [Syrian] refugees are fleeing, and not the opposite.” Instead of heightening kids’ fears and biases, our job as parents is to provide a sense of longterm safety in the world, by providing facts and information in a form that kids can understand.

3) One of the biggest challenges for children is feeling they cannot do anything about tragedy in the world. Experts advise empowering kids. Help them find ways to help the children affected by ISIS and the Syrian refugee crisis. They can collect donations for charity from neighbors, relatives, or at school. Help them make a donation themselves. They can write or post support messages. They can pray or meditate for the victims – or even for people so filled with hatred that they become terrorists.

4) Don’t hesitate to turn off the TV or radio or computer if the information seems too distressing. There are many social media sites airing personal videos that provide important eyewitness accounts, but can be extremely disturbing, especially when viewed repeatedly. Set a protective boundary based on your gut instincts about how much information your child can handle.

5) Spend time together as a family. Take a break from the disturbing coverage of the Paris attacks. Go for a walk. Play a game. Have a special meal together. Laugh. Be there for each other. The only mistake you can make as a parent? Not talking to your kids about the Paris attacks.



Leave a Reply