It is a very sad day when we have to consider this concept. But the reality is that we live in a world where there are humans who wish other humans harm.
So what do you do and what do you say to your child to allay his fears.
1.Reassure him that there are more good people in the world than bad. Get a huge bowl of dried rice. Take out 3 grains to represent the bad people. The remainder represents the good people. Start to count the rest. When you get to 100, put the rest into approximate groups the same size and begin to count in 100s. When you get to 1000 do the same. 1 million, keep going. Keep comparing with the 3 tiny, weeny pile. The good far outweigh the bad.
2.Model your behaviour and remain calm. He will be watching how you react. If you start to use language emitting fear, hatred or panic, your child will replicate. So focus on the good. Comment how amazing the emergency staff are and the members of public who always help. Keep your own emotions in check when your child is within earshot.
3.Make it okay to talk about what’s happened. Your child will hear about the terrorist attack in the playground, so it’s best to tackle difficult conversations in the safety of your own home. I love the sideways talking strategy. Conversations when you’re not face-to-face can be more successful - so bring up the topic when you’re driving or walking together. Answer any questions frankly and honestly - but please promote tolerance and harmony. We want the next generation to be peace-makers not war-mongers.
4. Keep to the real facts. Go to BBC Newsround a child-friendly news website that explains the news really clearly. There will be speculation and rumour. Do not share anything with him that is not real and true.
5. It’s also okay to be upset. This is a real and true emotion and if your child is upset then that’s a normal reaction. People died and to show remorse and sadness is to be expected. But remind him that this is a rare event, show him some happy news stories to balance out this tragedy. And please make sure that before he goes to bed, his head is full of happy thoughts (and maybe his old, favourite teddy bear).
6. Life continues as normal. As soon as you can, take your child on a trip to a busy tourist attraction. Maybe even go and see Big Ben. You cannot wrap your child in cotton wool. It is impossible to keep him safe from all the evils and dangers in the world. All you can do is to teach him about the dangers and make him aware of the choices and how to be vigilant. It will be as safe to go up to London as it is to cross the road. I am not party to any intelligence and I cannot say this for sure - I have no evidence to back it up. However let’s use our common sense and not be reactive. Yesterday’s atrocity was carried out by one man. Every day children are killed in road accidents.
7.Give your child an extra hug. This was a difficult day. There are some children who have lost their daddy. Put aside any homework, chores, arguments. And give your child a little bit of you time. You both might need it.
8. Use this as a positive. This is an awful, tragic event. But if you are able to use it to talk frankly with your child, explain about the goodness of people outweighing the evil, make your child more emotionally resilient and empathetic - then a teeny little bit of positive can be borne out of a tragedy.
Love will conquer hate.