Fairytales And Not-So-Happy Endings: Talking To Kids About Terror

22/12/2015 12:39 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

The Paris attacks remind us once again of how vulnerable we all are to the evils of this world.

These increasingly common incidents have slowly crept into our societal DNA like a deadly cancer. Terrorism is a multi-pronged socio-economic epidemic that we have failed to keep contained. We may not have started the fire but we face the flames anyway. The world has always had its share of negative forces but with every passing generation the dangers and threats feel ever more present and real.

Another day in another November, my home city Mumbai was mercilessly attacked by a bunch of spineless men who succeeded in terrorising and breaking the heart of our vibrant metropolis. Several innocent lives were lost, and the aftershocks of the attacks jolted us for a long time to come. Anyone associated with the city felt a loss. This Thursday is the seventh anniversary of this ghastly day. Life gives us no choice but to move on, and as time passes our emotions associated with the memory simmer down. All is well until another such incident takes place, pointing the gun directly at the very freedom we live for. We may be lucky enough to not be present at that café or stadium or hotel or on that plane but these attacks are on all of us. These are the very times that force us to question our basic faith and beliefs.

"We as parents must make our children aware and at the same time not let them lose their ability to trust."

Being a parent is hard work. Beyond the daily chores and choices, we are entrusted with a more important job -- that of growing and moulding little individuals. Our children will not be children forever and sooner or later they will get acquainted with the problems of the real world. As the world around us constantly changes, our children's evolving minds are perpetually bombarded with new and overwhelming concepts. A large part of parenting involves passing on to our children a strong belief system that can be relied and reflected upon all through their lives. Often we are faced with tough questions and unfortunately not all questions have definite answers.

One big question is: Why do bad things happen to good people?

The prime motive behind these attacks is clear -- to spread a fear and terror in our minds that is impossible to ignore. Fear, much like love, is a universal emotion. It is impossible for a rational mind to not feel fear, but overcoming fear is the big win and, ironically, the only way to overcome fear is by not being afraid. As much as these incidents shake up our core ideals and beliefs, it is when in doubt that we need faith the most.

Our children need to feel secure no matter what. If your children are at an age where they are aware of the senseless atrocities that took place last week or at any other time, it is likely that their minds will ask questions. This may be tricky. Research says that children up to the age of six view the world quite literally. It is difficult enough to explain the concept of mortality to a child, let alone the taking of life by another for no good reason. Explaining the truth may not always be simple but it is good to know that children have a unique way of adapting reality to suit their levels of understanding. We as parents must make our children aware and at the same time not let them lose their ability to trust. We must teach them to believe in niceness even when life isn't all that fair. In the end if that is the one thing we can pass on, it'll be enough.

To beautifully sum it up in the words of Angel Le, the Paris father who inspired people all around the world with his words of comfort to his young son: "They might have guns, but we have flowers."

A version of this article first appeared on SassyMama.HK

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