If your children are old enough to watch the news or use the internet, they will certainly have heard about terrorism and they may be frightened or confused.
It’s not an easy topic but it’s important to talk to our kids openly and honestly about terrorism so that they feel comfortable asking questions, understand the reality of the threat of terrorism, and know what to do in case of an emergency.
As Alison Roy of the Association of Child Psychotherapists told The Express shortly after the 2015 Paris attacks, “You need to be able to say, ‘Yes, there are some scary things in the world, but we’re in a safe place.’ Don’t lie or brush away a child’s fears,” she advised, and cautioned against creating a sense of ‘enemies and bad guys’.
Acknowledging the reality of terrorism and putting it into perspective doesn’t have to add to kids’ fears – in fact, it can be empowering and help them feel more at ease.
The Express’s article also advised that as parents, we should make sure our own feelings and anxieties are in check before we tackle the conversation with our children, and that our own show of stability and assurance will go a long way towards making them feel more secure – as will things like maintaining a routine so that life carries on as normal.
NSPCC LENDS A HELPING HAND
The NSPCC partnered with The Times to address children’s fears and help parents to deal with difficult questions following the 2015 Paris attacks, as there were more than 370 calls to Childline in the weeks that followed. These young people were specifically asking about terrorism and many were afraid that they would be the next victim of an attack.
The NSPCC’s advice echoed many of the sentiments above, and advised parents to follow five core principles:
- Listen – don’t shy away from a conversation
- Ask – stimulate discussion by asking them how they think and feel
- Honesty – don’t make anything up or skirt an issue
- Reassure – explain that these events are very rare
- Comfort – Give them a hug and tell them you will always be there to protect them and to keep them out of harm’s way.
You can watch a short video with examples of children’s questions and parents’ answers on The Times’ website.
The Safe Journey team has noticed that TV news and the internet can make terrorism seem like it’s everywhere, when in fact it is quite rare. We would suggest not keeping news channels running with hours of repeated coverage of an act of terrorism, as it can make the situation seem a lot more frightening.
Time To ACT
The NSPCC also partnered with Counter Terrorism Policing to create a branch of its ACT campaign (“Action Counters Terrorism”) aimed at young people.
The campaign used celebrities to present a simplified version of “RUN, HIDE, TELL” to 11-16 year olds, teaching them what to do in the unlikely event of an attack.
We’ve told you about RUN, HIDE, TELL before, and hope that you keep it in mind when you’re travelling and at home.
The youth campaign focuses on the essentials:
- RUN if you are able to,
- HIDE if you cannot run,
- and TELL police of the threat only when it is safe to do so.
Youngsters are also advised to warn others if there is danger, and crucially, NOT to stop and use mobile phones until safely away from the danger.
Travel Tips In Case Of Emergency
We have probably mentioned a few of these tips before, but it’s always a good idea to have a plan in place:
- Set a meeting place in case you get separated – kids who are old enough to walk around on their own should run if something goes wrong, rather than wait or try to find you in a crowd.
- Know where the exits are – whether you’re at a market, a museum or a beach party, check the area on a map beforehand and make sure you all know where the exits are.
- The same goes for first aid stations and security points.
- If your kids are worried about vehicle attacks, you could point out the pedestrian-only zone you’re visiting, the bollards or concrete benches protecting the pavement, or any of the other security features we referred to in our Christmas Market safety information – they’ll see you’re looking out for them and that can help them feel more secure.
- Give yourself extra peace of mind by topping up your travel insurance policy with Safe Journey terrorism travel insurance cover that includes things like medical repatriation, and curtailment to get you out of harm’s way if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your accommodation.*
Open, honest conversations can help to reassure your kids that you’re there for them, and help them to make every journey safer too.
*Safe Journey terrorism travel insurance provides comprehensive cover for acts of terrorism, whether you’re affected directly or indirectly. Medical repatriation and Curtailment are just two elements of the cover provided and the above information is a summary only – click here for full details of inclusions, exclusions, terms and conditions.
Anyone under 18 who wants to talk about terrorism (or any other concern) can call Childline on 0800 1111
Grown-ups can also get advice on 0808 800 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org