Children often hold vs. share their thoughts and feelings. So adults shouldn’t assume their children aren’t thinking about Paris because they’re not talking about it.
It is critical to set aside family time after any tragedy. The more time together, the greater chance of having a meaningful conversation.
Psychologist Paul Coleman and author of Finding Peace When Your Heart Is in Pieces, was interviewed often this week about how to talk with children about the Paris tragedy. He says it is naive to expect a blanket statement such as “Don’t worry – nothing to will ever happen to you” to be helpful.
What is possible vs. what is probable
Psychologist Michael Yapko agrees with Coleman about how best to confront anxiety over future uncertainty: consider the difference between what is possible and what is probable.
How do you explain this concept to a young child?
You might say, “It is possible something like Paris could happen but it isn’t likely.” Nothing has happened in our community like this before, and it isn’t likely that it ever will. But if there is an emergency this is what you should do.”
Continue from there to give them a plan: who should they listen to; who do they call if they have a phone, etc. Creating a plan is engaging and will give them a sense of power.
What I have suggested above is only part of longer conversations that need to take place.
Time Online provided Coleman’s acronym SAFE. It is a good roadmap for parents and grandparents to follow when talking to their children and grandchildren.
S: Search for hidden questions or fears. Ask what else is on their mind about what happened, what their friends say about it and what their biggest worry is right now. “The goal is to not assume your child is okay because it would make you—the parent—more at ease to believe that is so,” he says. “Some children may not speak up about their fears or may be unable to articulate them without a parent’s willingness to ask questions.”
A: Act. Keep routines going—homework, bedtime rituals and so on— because they’re reassuring and distracting. “It is a good time to have them do kind things for others,” says Coleman. Little things like helping an elderly neighbor, or opening a door for a stranger reminds them that there are kindnesses in this world. This reduces the sense of helplessness.
F: Feel feelings. “Let them know their feelings make sense,” says Coleman. “Saying ‘There is nothing to worry about,’ teaches them that you may not be the person to speak to about their fears.” Let them talk it out and show that you understand.
E: Ease Minds. After you’re sure they’ve talked through their fears, you can assure them of their safety. “Reassure them that there are good people trying to help others and prevent future attacks,” says Coleman.
Parisian father talks to his young son about what has happened
In closing I am providing the link for the video of a father in Paris talking to his son about the flowers and candles. It is the sweetest video I have ever watched. The originator has been pulling it from all sites. YouTube has it up currently. Watch it quickly as they may pull from my blog as well.