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Wash hands. Brush teeth. Avoid Terrorists.

 Terrorism (2)

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”- Fred Rogers

Each time a horrific, terror inducing event occurs in the news, it seems that this quote appears shortly thereafter.  I want to believe in this quote. I need to believe this in this quote.   There are many moments when I do, in fact, whole heartedly agree with this sentiment.  When you see the outpouring of love and support that follows attacks of terrorism, it is easy to find solace in words such as these.  However, as we have so tragically experienced in many of our lifetimes, sometimes, the helpers do not win.

So what do we say to our children about terrorism? I have no problem helicopter parenting from time to time.  I have probably said “Be Careful” more times than I care to count.  Wash your hands. Brush your teeth. Look both ways before you cross the street.  Don’t talk to strangers.  All of these snippets of wisdom are easy to reiterate.

But what do I say about terrorists? About terrorism?

I find myself struggling with how to explain this to my son.  I have a few standard phrases I share, but I still feel as though I am not adequately preparing him for the world he will inherit as an adult.  It suddenly seems inadequate to simply convey to him the powerful force of hatred.  Of course I advise him to choose love, to choose peace, to pray, to follow the golden rule, etc., but how can I possibly explain an evil that I myself cannot fathom?

If you research this topic, you will encounter a variety of ways to tailor conversations about violence and terrorism to your little ones (kidshealth.org , among many).  In my studies, I learned:

1. You should stay calm

2. Answer their questions

3. Don’t shield them from the truth

4. Limit television exposure

5. Make sure that they feel safe and loved  

I did all of these things with my son.  I will continue to answer all of his questions.   Despite my best efforts, it simply doesn’t seem like enough.

As a foreign language teacher, I have often dreamt of the first time my son will experience the wonders of travel for himself.  I anticipate those moments of discovery that can only come from this type of exploration.  My sincere wish is that as he embarks upon his future journeys that he will encounter more marvels than memorials,  more beauty than tragedy, and ultimately, more hope than despair.

Each age group will require different conversations. How have you talked to your children about terrorism? We want to know.

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