How can we help our kids understand the events in Paris

Orange Grove Clinic director and yoga teacher Jackie Heffer-Cooke has advice on how to talk to our children about the shocking events in Paris.

The events and images from what has happened – and is happening – at the moment in Paris and Brussels, filter into all of us.  As adults we may feel many emotions, from great sadness, to distress, to perhaps anger and even fear.  As the ‘grown-ups’ we have some tools to help us, if not to understand, to rationalise what is going on.  We know we are safely in Norwich, or a small town or village in Norfolk, and we are very thankfully not likely to be next on the terrorist hit list.

But our kids don’t understand that as easily.

events in Paris for children

The Orange Grove Clinic has advise on how to talk to your children about the shocking events in Paris.

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 rock concerts.

This week for me has been about, not unlike when they were small babies, watching out for cue signs for my children.  How much have they seen, what they know, how has it been discussed and dramatised in the playground.  My son, it seems, is young enough to not really understand or be effected, but not so for my ten year old daughter.

When I was ten 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 the sudden the world in which I lived became darker, scarier and more sinister.

As adults we understand and we feel deeply, deeply saddened, that for some children war is reality.  We strive to help families of refugees and we understand that what happens in Paris 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 last weekend have washed towards us so that we really feel the turbulence, as will a lot of Western Europe.

Yesterday, on BBC news, I watched a good interview with a child psychologist who gave good advice; turn off the TV, switch over the radio station, protect as much as you can.  Answer questions in a way that will not frighten them even more.  Be careful with what you say, maybe the whole story is not necessary and details of events should be softened genuinely, but carefully.

We should respond and talk to them and communicate softly and make them fundamentally feel safe again.

But what can you do with the feelings the images leave in the mind of our children?  My answer is remind them of empathy.

Yesterday morning my daughter asked me outright about it all and before breakfast we had had conversations about terrorism, war, religion, human rights and god. Not bad for a Wednesday morning.  I tried to carefully explain the best I could and this is what I said….

When these bad things happen we all feel it, because we are all interconnected.  These feelings are what makes us human.  Like the winds we felt early this week left over from a hurricane from distant seas, we feel the ripple effects of what happened in Paris.  An emotional effect.  Because as humans we care for others, not just about other people, but about the environment, the animals, the nature around us, and when something bad happens, we feel it deep in our insides. This interconnection of feeling is, to me, what ‘god’ is, not a religious god, but this universal everything that binds us all together, and makes us do right, not wrong. Because we feel it, 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, and they remember it and give it out to others.  And the air stays calm, with a soft breeze, and the oceans are quiet and peaceful.

All we can do is remember these deep feelings of compassion, and maybe do our best to keep the waters clear, and peaceful by perhaps really seeing the good in the world 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.  And we can do the same back, spreading the feeling of calm, and peace and love.  Holding on to it, and cherishing it.

My daughter looked at me and smiled and said, yes I like this ‘god’.

Advising our kidsLast night when I tucked her up in bed, we played a soft song together, called Ocean, and we spent some time just breathing in, pausing, then breathing out, pausing, just like a soft wave of the sea comes up to the shore, then retreats back into the vastness of the sea.

So, the individual can make the difference, and can take that calm back to the whole, all contributing to the calm and peaceful state around us once more.

By the time I had got to the last word in my sentence, my beautiful daughter had drifted sound asleep.

Be thankful every day for what we have.  Allow yourself to feel that a little bit more today, and maybe love a little more.  An extra long hug goes a long way…

Jackie Heffer-Cooke teaches HypnoBirthing, is a teacher and the founder of  YogaBubs Baby YogaYogaBumps Pregnancy Yoga, YogaBuds Yoga Classes and is a co-Directer of The Orange Grove Clinic.  You can book a place in any of Jackies classes via our online shop, by going to our contact page or by calling Reception on 01603 631 900.