Explaining acts of Terror to our kids

(Photo by Getty Images/Dave Hogan for One Love Manchester)

(Image courtesy of Getty Images/Dave Hogan for One Love Manchester)

The events and images from what has happened – and is happening – this month, filter into all of us. For us adults we may feel many emotions, from great sadness, to distress, to anger and even fear. As the ‘grown-ups’ we have some tools in which to help us, if not to understand, to rationalise what is going on. We know in Norwich, Norfolk, or a small town or village thereabouts, we are unlikely to come to harm. But our kids don’t understand that as easily.

This lovely, safe, vastly good world that they happily grow up in suddenly becomes a different place. A place where crazy violent things happen, out of the blue. In restaurants and pop concerts.

This fortnight for me has been about, not unlike when my children were small babies, watching out for cue signs from them. How much have they seen, what do they know, how has it been discussed and dramatised in the playground.
When I was eleven or so I remember the threat of the nuclear war. I remember ‘superpowers’ being talked about and ‘melting faces’. I overheard conversations about ‘When the wind blows’ and ‘threads’, and all of a sudden the world in which I lived became darker, scarier and more sinister.

Image courtesy of Reuters Stefan Wemuth

(Image courtesy of Reuters Stefan Wermuth)

We understand, and we feel deeply saddened that for some children war is reality, we must strive to help more families of refugees. It is a truth that what happens in our own cities goes on all too frequently in more distant lands from us, and that this is desperately tragic.

But when something happens to our neighbours, we understandably feel it more vividly. The ripples of effect are closer to us, and the violent waters of the last couple of weeks have washed towards us so that we really feel the turbulence.

When these bad things happen we all feel it, because we are all interconnected. These feelings are what makes us human. For the most part of this interconnection, for the vast part of it, people are good. People want others to treat them the way they want to be treated.

I thought that the One Love Manchester concert was a wonderful opportunity to sit together, hold our children, and focus on the power of the good. Yes, at times to us old cynics the Americanisms could grate a little, but fundamentally on stage were a bunch of musicians, most of them pretty young people themselves, reaching out to other young people to remind them to smile. To remind them they are allowed to smile. In fact, it would be wrong if we didn’t smile; otherwise pain, and horror and sadness would win.

Watching the concert was a wonderful way of reminding my kids about the power of compassion. Also to remind them to open their eyes and mindfully look for the good around us, really looking for it and acknowledging it. Every time someone smiles at you and says hello, or holds a door open, or goes an extra mile with a small act of kindness, enjoy it. And we can return the kindness and the smiles. Spreading the feeling of calm, and peace and love. Holding on to it, and cherishing it.

If you can, practise gratitude this week. Allow yourself to feel thankful, and maybe even love a little more than usual. A smile, and an open door for a stranger goes a long way, and so does an extra-long hug with those around us we really care about…

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