How to explain terrorism to children

How to explain terrorism to children

Terrorism wasn’t what I thought I would be talking to my children about when we moved to Paris just over two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, I was looking forward to talking to our kids about how great Christmas is in Paris, the lights along the Champs de Elysee, the Bon Marche windows, the Christmas markets, the ice rink outside the Hotel de Ville, having a hot chocolate at Angelina and leaving carrots and biscuits for Santa on our balcony.

Of course that’s been overshadowed by the events of 13/11.

We have explained the events to our children but it’s not been easy. How do you explain that people who were on a night out enjoying themselves, were shot, injured or killed. The people who did this killed themselves, but one had escaped and is on the run.

On Wednesday we awoke to the news of a siege in the North of Paris in the area of St Denis. Suspects were surrounded by police resulting in a shoot out, suicide killing and more deaths.

It’s been a hard time for all of us, especially for the children who are trying to process the horror.

• Will they come back?

• Why did they kill themselves?

• Were any children killed?

• Do they want to kill children?

• Will there be a war? Will there be a world war?

• Why are they doing this?

Dealing with children’s questions about terrorism:

• We’ve been calm and measured in our responses

• We’ve stuck to the facts

• We’ve kept life as normal as possible: School, parks, hooking up with friends

• We’ve acknowledged their feelings: Anger, fright, sadness

A lot of information has been issued about talking to children about terrorism.


I found ‘Explaining terrorism to children’ by the children’s publisher Bayard Jeunesse. A two-page leaflet in straightforward, easy to understand language. And this version’s in English.

The news cycle will move on, the events of 13/11 will no longer be in the headlines but the effects are longer lasting.

I am starting to see how this is playing out in our children’s lives. Play has a powerful therapeutic effect and can really help children unravel complex emotions.

On the surface the kids say they are fine, they aren’t scared, but their language of play is telling a different story.

Wonder Boy has built strategic defenses: rocket launcher, army bases (troops to be assembled when pocket money allows) and personal defense system, which will fire used felt-tip pens.

Both children bought lead toy soldiers (the first of the pocket money troops) from the flea market, Mache aux Puce de la Porte Vanves – both with guns. I haven’t stopped this – play is their way of coping and trying to understand the world around them.

How have you explained 13/11 to your children? What questions have they asked? How have you tried to respond?

Let me know…..


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