Take Two®

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The Brood: How can parents talk with kids about the Paris attacks?

by Take Two®

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A child holds-up a hand drawn French flag as people gather on November 14, 2015 in Turin, a day after deadly attacks in Paris. MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images

It's incredibly difficult for most of us to comprehend terrorist attacks, like the ones that shook Paris on Friday.

But what if you are a kid? How do you process that someone would randomly kill people throughout a city? And how can you feel safe in a world such as this?

Clinical psychologist Enrico Gnaulati offers some tips on how to talk about difficult and tragic subjects with kids. 

Limit their exposure

"I'm a firm believer in protecting kids' benign denial systems. So, for me, I would want to just limit exposure right away. If a parent quickly discerns that this is a heinous event that touches them to their primal core... and they get a sense that this is something awesome and big and frightening and frightful, I would say at that point, one of the primary things they can do as a parent is just limit exposure. So my approach would be turn off the radio, turn off the TV."

Keep your calm

"If the horse is out of the stable, at that point, parents managing their own emotions becomes really important. Because emotions are contagious; more often than not, kids will take a parent's a lead with respect to what are the proper emotions to have, and the right degree of intensity of emotions."

Follow your child's lead and then tread carefully

"If it's not on a kid's radar, then you don't put it on their radar... So you really have to kind of carefully gauge the situation to see if they're really in the know about what happened. And then I think you need to switch into kind of amateur psychologist mode and work from within the kid's narrative. Tease them out— what have they seen? What do they know? What's their understanding of what happened?"

 Focus on the glimmers of positivity

"A focus that I would have with younger kids would be on the concept of solidarity. So, for instance, after the events occurred, maybe then turning on the TV where there are gestures of solidarity—that hundreds of countries came to France's defense, world leaders expressed their support for France. And maybe, you know, little kids tend to understand the world in binary terms— good and bad, good guys and bad guys— so then that could be a discussion where, with these gestures of solidarity, it shows that there are more good guys in the world than bad guys, and that ultimately the good guys will win and make it safe for everyone."

To hear the full interview, click the link above.

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