Wednesday 18 November 2015

Should we talk to children about frightening world events?

I had planned to blog about roses this week. In particular, I wanted to blog about the last flower clinging onto this plant at the bottom of the garden. I couldn’t believe there was a lone rose still in bloom in November.

But all this seems so trivial compared to recent events in Paris. I generally blog about our allotment, crafting and my vintage finds. I'm aware of how lucky we are to have a safe and comfortable life. My mind is a jumble of thoughts at the moment and I wanted to try and write some of them down. This isn't just about Paris, there is so much sadness and killing of innocent people in the news and it is hard, even as an adult, to process it all.

Blogging about gardening feels unimportance at the moment. And yet, this rose has become more poignant to me after last week’s terrorist attack. All the other leaves have withered and fallen to the ground, but a single crimson rose flowers on. Life prevails. My late-Grandmother always said “where there’s life, there’s hope”. You could argue that I am na├»ve, but I refuse to think that all we have ahead of us is fear and hatred.

As a Mum I worry. We want our children to feel secure, but our world seems increasingly insecure. We have not watched the recent news whilst Magoo has been around…we watch it when she has gone to bed. As I flicked through the channels yesterday, she happened to see some of the Paris vigils at the end of the evening news and asked: ‘why are those people so sad?’. My husband told her people in France had died and their family and friends were very upset.

His explanation avoids the topic of terrorism, but Magoo is six and I think it was better to say something than nothing at all. Magoo experienced her first taste of grief last year when her Great-Grandmother died. We’ve always been open about the topic of death. We’ve talked about it being a natural part of the cycle of life. Admittedly we talked about it in the context of old age or illness. Broaching the subject of people losing their lives prematurely through violence is probably too much for her at the moment. I’m aware that Magoo is one of the lucky ones, the fear of violence and death are part of some children’s daily lives. I want to be engaged with the world we live in, I don’t want to turn away. I want Magoo to be engaged too, but it's hard to know when it is appropriate and how to talk about these topics. This piece in The Guardian suggests we “give children the chance to tell you what they know and how they are processing it”. I'm sure as Magoo gets older, she will have more questions about the wider world. There will be events that scare her. Fear is a normal reaction, maybe we shouldn’t try and shield our children from it completely.

Many other bloggers have written about this situation recently. Hurrah for Gin illustrates it perfectly with this simple illustration:

As adults we’re scared too, so how do we not pass this fear onto our children? How do we see the positives in situations like this? Over the weekend I read the post “How do I talk to my children about terrorism when I don’t understand it myself?” by Cardiff Mummy. She writes about the Fred Rogers quote, which has been widely shared since the Paris attacks:

“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.”

The vast majority of people in our country are aware of the dire situation in places such as Syria, Beirut, Kenya and the loss of innocent life across the globe. But we feel helpless in the face of it all. So it is truly amazing that there are people out there making a hands-on effort to help. The police, paramedics, doctors, security guards and aid workers have my utmost respect. They are usually first on the scene when tragedy strikes. They go into the eye of the storm when everyone else is understandably running for their lives. Similarily, charities supporting refugees and organisations such as Medicine Sans Frontier work in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. They provide ongoing support once the world's media have moved on.

So maybe this rose isn’t so trivial after all. It has encouraged me to write down my deeper thoughts and feelings and in the process I have read more widely on the subject, it's good to feel more informed. I also feel more confident about talking to my daughter if she asks questions in the future about serious world events.

Above all, I agree that we need to focus on the helpers. It is a positive we can take from this situation. We must try and support each other, we must support those who help others. There are far more people on this planet who want peace rather than hatred. We mustn’t think that all is lost and the world is a terrible place. There is an alternative to hatred. And we should be encouraged to share this with our children.

If you can, please help to support these amazing charities helping vulnerable people:

Doctors Without Borders (Medicine Sans Frontier)

Save the Children: Child Refugee Crisis Appeal

This week I'm linking up with:

#brilliantblogposts over on

The life affirming 'How Does Your Garden Grow' over on

Share With Me over on


Anonymous said...

It's been a week of much thought and reflection here. Kitty has been watching the news and is very matter of fact about it. It doesn't seem to make her scared or angry just really sad.
She's learnt enough from school (and indeed me) about poverty in Africa and war in Syria to understand the world can be very different for people than the world around her.
She told me that the attacks in Paris made her sad, like the children with no clean drinking water in Africa and the families who have no homes in Syria. Bad people attacked people in Paris and bad people don't help children have clean drinking water. Very black and white, which surprised me and also put things in perspective for me, the whole thought that tragic things happen every day in the world and that it's better to focus on how to help make it better than to wallow in the anger of it all.
I totally avoided Facebook for just that reason.
Thanks for joining in - sorry for the rambling comment x

Me, You and Magoo said...

Thank you for taking the time to comment Annie. I think your daughter is very perceptive...and her thoughts pretty much sum up the world today. Bad things are happening all the time & we definitely need to put energy into helping, if we can, rather than being angry.

Jibberjabberuk said...

I was brought up by my nan who lived through two world wars in London. She also had a wife beating, adulterous husband aka my grandfather and I wonder how she ever lived through such times when she had a child to look after, then had a baby in the war, being bombed out again and again and spending hours in air raid shelters. Somehow she did and that gives me hope but it doesn't mean I want to face such times myself.

Me, You and Magoo said...

I wonder Jibber Jabber if people used to think if they talked less, the problems would go away? A kind of " least said, soonest mended" type of attitude. I know my own Grandmother lived through some very tough times too & she never really spoke about it to her children. Perhaps being more open with our children is a generational thing? Also with rolling 24 hr news & the internet, our children are possibly exposed to far more than previous generations. We seem to live in a media-saturated age...

Stephanie 139a said...

I too have been overwhelmed by the events in Paris and making sense of them against blogging about lighter things and straight after I struggled so have been more silent than ever before on my blog. It's not that I haven't anything to say, but that it seemed so futile. Getting out and digging on the allotment helped though which is why I think I ended up writing about that instead. Symbolic I guess. And like your rose it's the hope that will see us through. Ps love the shot of it against your shed #hdygg

Let's Talk Mommy said...

It really has been so scary and it's hard to explain it to your loved ones that are so little at a time you don't understand it yourself. Love Katies drawing it almost makes me cry though that we are living in that kind of world. So sad and so scary. Thank you for stopping by LTM and linking up to SWM. I hope to see you again tomorrow for another great round of #sharewithme


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