Psychologist Katerina Demina about what kind of truth about the events our children need and how to present it correctly.
How to tell children about terrorism
What to say to the kids who saw the news with us? We heard that many people died…
First, get the kids away from the TV. This is the main advice: children should not watch the news.
But you can't isolate children from real life at all?
And this is not life. Think about how many real deaths the average person faces in life if they are not on the battlefield or in some other extreme circumstances? Well, five or six at the most. Our psyche, relatively speaking, is not designed for more. Especially - the psyche of children. They do not need to see the concentration of death and grief around the world on a daily basis. So once again: get them away from the TV, the kids don't need to watch the news about the attack.
If this did happen, the child watched the news. What should I tell him?
Small children - preschoolers, junior schoolchildren - we just calm down. We say it's scary, but it's very far away, and mom and dad are with you, nothing will happen next to us. In no case should one indulge in detailed explanations that it was bad people who came and killed good people. This triggers very serious fears. Does a child know to himself that he is good, and what does it mean - that bad uncles can come to him and kill him just like that? In my practice, I encounter such a neurosis all the time. Therefore, we simply reassure small children. It will be enough for older children to say that yes, there are bad people who attack with weapons, and we will defend ourselves against them, we know how. But then again, children should be told about terrorism as calmly as possible, without details.
What to say to teenagers?
But teenagers will already demand a more serious conversation, and here it is important not to fall into propaganda. It is very important for teenagers that everything that happens around them meets their sense of justice and legality. Convey the idea that everything will be fine, everything will come into balance, terrorism will be stopped and punished. Do not tell children about terrorism and extremism with TV words, speak as neutrally and calmly as possible.
Do not insult anyone in any way, because the child goes to school after your conversation, and in this school he has classmates of other nationalities, other cultures, this conversation should not provoke hatred between children. Of course, what you say will depend on your family position on the matter. But - be careful.
What are children most afraid of? What news?
The same as all of us - to die, to lose loved ones. A terrorist attack - after all, it is arranged precisely in order to intimidate us, to inspire horror, in one second we begin to feel that everything in the world is unsteady, that death is walking nearby.
How should we react - and what mood should our child read? Should we teach him empathy?
The question here is what feelings you want to share and what the child should empathize with. There is no need to share the horror. These feelings, fear and defenselessness, cannot be shown - this is our adult responsibility to children. First, put yourself in order, experience the first acute reaction, and then, if you need to explain something, if the child still heard something, saw people crying, carrying flowers and candles, and he demands an explanation, then say with calm sadness: yes, it’s a pity, but it happened, and now there are people who need help or who can no longer be helped, but who can be mourned, pay their last tribute, sympathize with their loved ones. A good occasion to talk about death and its rituals that help us get through grief.
In any case, all our conversations should convey this thought: next to me, an adult, you are safe, I will never hurt you, and we can handle everything. It may not be an objective truth, but this is what a child should grow up in, it helps him live, and this ultimately turns into a useful function in his head, teaches him to calmly and constructively respond to difficult situations in life.
How not to be afraid of ourselves, adults?
You can't help but be afraid when there is a threat of a terrorist attack. You have to be afraid. It is foolish to deny fear and, for example, still fly to those countries or through those countries in which hostilities are taking place. It is foolish to flaunt and not listen to your instincts at all. Fear, when justified, is a useful feature. It's another matter what to do with him later - go smash in response or go help someone who is ill, and think what to do next, how to fix the situation.