Television, radio, the internet and social media make it very difficult for parents to shield their children from upsetting stories such as the attack in Westminster last week. Despite the best will in the world to protect them from horrific and potentially frightening news, children will undoubtedly become aware of these events through relentless news feeds and even through chatting with their friends.
For parents it’s a real dilemma. How much should we tell our children? How do we stop them from worrying or panicking? How can we help them to understand why these things happen?
Winston’s Wishes, a charity for bereaved children, has produced useful guidance for parents in how to talk to children about upsetting news. Click here to access the guidance which will be relevant to any situation, not just last week’s attack.
One of the best pieces of advice I have come across was from Fred Rogers, an American television personality, who recommends that adults should guide children towards seeking out the ‘helpers’ in these dreadful situations. The heroes who come running to the rescue, the good people who stop to try and help those who are injured or distressed. Whilst the news bulletins will focus on the facts – the whys and wherefores of the event – the footage will usually show humankind at its best. Teach children to focus on those people doing ‘good’, showing care and compassion, as a way of restoring their faith that the majority of people in our world are decent human beings and that we should not be afraid. Someone will always be helping.