Here's an article that helps you equip yourself to face your child's questions about terrorism and death.
By Harshikaa Udasi
The December 2014 Peshawar attack on school children had far greater repercussions than those visible on the surface. Scores of children all over the world, who watched the events unfold on television and in the papers, did not just have questions that demanded answers, they were also left emotionally and mentally scarred. Parents had a tough task ahead of them – to explain words such as ‘war’, ‘terror attacks’ and ‘death’ to young, impressionable minds.
Talking to children about issues like terror and death ranks high on the list of the most unpleasant tasks of a parent. Nevertheless, these topics have to be handled.
Censoring is indeed a big part of parenthood and filtering out the nasty bits is tricky. Haven’t you seen parents scurrying to stash away the morning newspapers before their children get their hands on them? Or tearing out the front pages to ensure that the little ones don’t read the ‘hard news’? How often have you told a questioning child that someone has ‘become a star in the sky’ and left him to figure out much later what death is really about?
But death, war, murder and rape cannot be brushed under the carpet indefinitely. So, brace yourselves, parents, and make an honest attempt to explain these subjects in such a way that your child is equipped to handle them.
“Children, these days, are exposed to numerous traumatic events through what they see or hear in the media. Over the years, children’s level of intelligence has increased too. This translates into them being more inquisitive and curious about their surroundings”, explains Mumbai-based clinical psychologist, Trinette Cordeiro. “Traumatic events such as terror attacks, war and rape that are reported in the news also come to the notice of young children, like it or not. When the child is seven or eight years old, you can start speaking about the dark topics,” she advises.
Of course, a child’s age influences his reaction to such news articles. Very young children confuse fantasy with reality. Slightly older children can partially understand ‘dark’ events.Children who are even older can completely comprehend these traumatic events and may have their own opinions about them. Trinette says, “Some children are more anxious than others to begin with. These children may be more prone to developing symptoms such as worrying about being separated from their parents, bad things happening randomly to them and have crying spells.”
If you find yourself on a sticky wicket, as you often will, here’s Trinette’s list of things to avoid:
Remember, despite your best efforts to explain traumatic events, if the child displays symptoms like excessive crying, sleeplessness, bed-wetting and worrying about separation from parents, consult a professional psychologist or a psychiatrist.
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