We will all, at one time or another have to answer the difficult questions posed by our children. There is no ratified tick list of dos and donts to guide our approach either. We can only hope that we’ll be able to provide a listening ear and a sensitivity that will support not only their understanding, but also their learning.
How then do we provide a rationale in the face of adversity? When the questions posed conjure only futility and frustration? What happens when there are just no suitable or worthy answers to be had?
In the wake of the recent atrocities in London and Manchester, I cannot begin to pretend to understand how the children and young people involved, felt at the time of the bombing and how they will continue to feel in the days, weeks, months and years to come. How do those parents begin to make sense of the events and how then do they package them into a palatable pill for their children to swallow?
How do schools, faith leaders, charity workers and multi generational family members support today’s parents to navigate the pockets of hate that exist within our modern society?
As parents, we are there to provide our children a safe and secure base from which to grow and develop into healthy, well rounded and adaptable individuals. Parents should be able to support calculated risks, that each and every child will understand better just some of the dangers that may be present and the best way to navigate them confidently and independently.
It’s important that a healthy level of fear be allowed to exist if only to encourage a sense of considered caution. However, fear should not be allowed to manifest itself to the point at which it threatens to control each and every waking moment of a child’s life. It’s all about balance.
How then do we channel a message of peace and love when an act so depraved is targeted at the very charges we are hard wired to protect? In a world where ‘hate’ threatens to dominate our psyche, how can we minimise the fallout and protect our most vulnerable?
The answers are complex and grey in colour. Neither do I claim to have them.
We live in a country rich and beautiful in its cultural diversity. However, we are also living amongst (all be it only a few) individuals who will exploit religion and polarize opinion through the misrepresentation of religious text and belief. These wild ‘storytellers’ are creating the stuff of nightmares.
I do not claim to know anything about religious fundamentalism and it is not my intention to explore it in any depth. What I do know, however, is that they will not win if we refuse to be broken by them.
After waking to the news of these recent terrorist attacks, I feel as though I am now part of a world that has shifted somewhat, and a very small part of each of us will have been changed forever. I can only hope that instead of inciting hate, it has actually inspired a fundamental need for change.
‘Every Child Matters’ and unless we ensure that each and every child is offered the chance to enjoy life, good health and to inspire both aspiration and a desire to achieve, we cannot hope to see an end to this disease of apathy and disillusionment.
Change most certainly begins at home and on a more personal level when we are asked the difficult questions, we need to be brief. It is important to provide context but not dwell too long on the negatives. To highlight the positives, but allow for the tears. Soothe your children but know that they are complex characters, able to think and feel deeply regardless of their age. Do not assume them incapable of understanding or processing even the most vile information. They may be small but they are fierce.
As parents our job is more than simply feeding, clothing and entertaining our children. We have a duty to earn their respect. It is only then that they will be able to seek solace and support in the knowledge that they have built a trusting relationship as a result.
We can only hope that the moral framework we have provided to our children, interwoven with love and with peace will help them to weather the storm and to guide them safely through the dark.
My love and thoughts are with all the people who have been affected. Together you will be stronger.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 23: Armed police patrol on Shudehill walking past the first floral tributes to the victims of the terrorist attack. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)