Hong Kong is a relatively safe place and one of the advantages of living here is the low level of violent crime and almost non-existent presence of terrorism. However, as an Educational Psychologist, I sometimes receive questions from parents sometimes regarding how they should speak to their children about war and terrorism in the news. Here are five important things to remember:
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Let your children know that this is a topic that they can talk about. Keep it open-ended so that you can assess what is on their mind. This will help you clarify any confusion or comfort any worries.
Explain that one of your roles as a parent is to keep your child safe. Talk about what you do as well as the role of the police and military in helping protect us. Keep a normal routine and avoid over exposure to media that may be covering a particular terror incident or war.
Avoid Racial or Ethnic Stereotyping
Try to avoid any specific references to religious, ethnic or racial groups as being responsible for acts of terror or war. It may be more appropriate to talk about “bad or harmful actions” as this may help children understand that people are making choices about their behaviour and it is not necessarily due to their racial, ethnic or religious background.
Provide a Good Example
Talk to your children about what you think and how you cope with your feelings about terrorism or armed conflict. Providing an appropriate example of maturity and caring will help children as they respond and think about events. Acknowledge their concerns and encourage caring for others.
Seek Help if Your Child’s Anxiety Level Seems “Over the Top”
In some cases children that have more serious difficulties with generalised anxiety will become over-focused on natural disasters, or acts of terror or war. If a child seems to be worrying too much and is seeking frequent reassurance, having disturbed sleep, difficulty separating or is irritable, it may be time to seek consultation with a mental health professional.