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How to Talk to Kids about the Barcelona Terror Attack: Tips & Scripts Included

credit: CBS

Just as we are trying to make sense of the loss, heartache and anger of what happened in Charlottesville, we are faced, again, with another act of terror in Barcelona. While adults are reeling, our children will likely have concerns and questions about what has just occurred. Here are some tips, conversation starters and scripts you can use to help talk about this terrible incident with your kids:

  1. Be their first source: I know this is hard as we don’t always know what to say to our children when scary things happen. But information is best coming from a trusted source—and that trusted source is you. You know your child and know how to be sensitive to the way your child needs to receive it. These details may have already started to leak out so it’s best not to wait. While you can limit gruesome details based on age and maturity, you can provide the information your children need to know to feel cared for and safe.

    You can say: “Someone who has hate in their heart and is angry and confused about what is right, kind and fair, hurt a lot of people in Barcelona, a city in Spain, which is in Europe. A lot of people are very upset right now but the people in charge are doing everything they can to keep people safe.”

    2. Let them know about the helpers: When situations seem unsure, children need to know that the grown-ups are helping those in need. Kids become very nervous that they will be left on their own if something bad happens and some anxiety can be alleviated by being sure that someone is in charge of safety.

    You can say: “Authorities are working to keep people safe. The police have already found the person who caused the harm to the people in Barcelona. Medical staff, like doctors and nurses, are helping those who have been hurt.”

    3. Let them know they are safe and these incidents are very rare: While tragedy recently struck Charlottesville, this does not mean that fatal acts of hate and terror are happening all the time. What are the kids thinking right now? They are thinking about their own safety and the safety of those they love. My daughter asked, when we spoke about the sad and angering act of hate in Charlottesville, “Is this going to happen here?”

    You can say: “These kinds of incidents are extremely rare, my love, and the people in charge are doing everything they can to keep everyone safe.”

    4. Stay calm: You are human. It is normal and natural to feel angry, sad, shocked or even numb when senseless acts occur. As a parent, teacher or child mentor, being “there” for young people sometimes means keeping our emotions in check so that we don’t overwhelm or alarm our children. While you certainly don’t need to be stoic or aloof—and you can talk about your sad or angry feelings when terror attacks happen—the full gravity of your feelings should be reserved for other trusted adults in your life.

    You can say: “It makes me feel very sad and angry when I hear that someone who has hate in their heart hurts other people. It’s not right or fair. How do YOU feel about it?”

    5. Expect that questions may not all come out at once: Children often need time to process information—especially information that is upsetting, confusing or surprising. It’s normal for children to have questions about sensitive topics over time. It may go on for weeks—a question here and a question there—never lasting more than a minute or two. Other times you may have a few longer conversations. Children process tough topics in different ways. It’s OK if you don’t know the answer— you can always tell your children that you will look up the answer and get back to them when you know. It’s also completely OK to say “I don’t know” when the answer is not answerable. Be a source of comfort—and know when your child has had enough.

    You can say: “I’m happy to answer your questions. What do you want to know?” And “I’m really not sure of the answer to that question right now, but I will look it up and get you the answer.” Or “I wish I knew for sure that this kind of thing will never happen again. What I do know is that the person who did it was captured by the authorities and can no longer hurt anyone.”

    6. Remain open to dealing with fears and concerns: Don’t be surprised if fears and concerns seem illogical, disconnected and come at unusual times. You might be driving your child to school on a beautiful sunny day when your child pops a question about something that happened days or even weeks before. Your child may develop a temporary fear of the dark, loud noises, people in uniform or otherwise while trying to regain their footing. Be patient and open to talking, reassuring and even just “there” during these tough times. This is tough for everyone.

    You can say: “Is there something I can do to help you feel safer or more secure?” or “Would you like advice or would you prefer that I just listen?”

    7. Know that unusual conduct or feelings may arise: Sometimes frightening and unexpected news can make children act out different ways. These behaviors may surprise you. Some kids may become clingy or hyper while others may become withdrawn and quiet. Some may sleep more while others may sleep less. Still others may eat more while others may report that they aren’t hungry.

    You can say: “Would you like to talk about your feelings? I am always here to listen. Your emotions are all OK and what you feeling is normal when bad things happen. You can feel any way that you do

    8. Don’t stop living: It is natural to want to protect your family when bad things happen. You may be wishing that you want to construct a bubble for everyone you love to live in just to keep potential dangers out. I get it. I’m a parent too. But living in fear is no way to live. Instead, enjoy everyday. Love deeper. Hug longer. And remember, there is more good than bad in the world.

    You can say: “I am so grateful for you. And I’m thankful for all those who work around the clock to keep us safe and healthy. Would you like to talk about why you are grateful today? What have you been able to do today because there are wonderful people who help us stay safe?”

    (9) Focus on the good: And don’t forget to remind your children of the good in the world. There are everyday people doing wonderful things. We don’t always hear about them, but there are. There are people who are solving medical mysteries and there are people who are building schools and helping children in need.

    You can say: “There are kids, just like you, helping the new child at school, talking to the scared friend on the bus, standing up to someone who is being unkind and giving a hug to a friend who is feeling sad. You do many kind things to help others. What have you done to help someone today? How did someone else help you?”

    (10) Allow them to contribute: People often remind kids to look for the helpers in this world—and that is a wonderful strategy. But just as important is to allow your child to find a way to be helpful. Instead of blocking out the world, let us teach our children to become the kind of people that make this world a better place. Children thrive when they feel that they can contribute to their family, their community, their country and beyond. Encourage them to do that. They may even be able to help the people of Barcelona as the charities who are providing assistance emerge. By doing so, you will teach them that there is a lot more good in this world than there is evil. And, yes, they are a big part of that good. In other words, they don’t just need to look for the helpers, they can become them.

    You can say; “How can we be helpful to someone who is suffering today?”

    This is a tough time but let’s keep the path of communication open. It is a source of connection and love—and lord knows we need more of that right now.

Thinking of Barcelona and all those who are grieving losses due to hate or terror attacks right now.

xo

How to Talk to Kids about Bullying with Carrie Goldman

Special Guest: Carrie Goldman

Bullying is a hot topic these days- of course it is. Studies tell us that, more and more, bullying can have a lasting effect on a person’s mental health. Not to mention, we hear tragic stories about children feeling hopeless and helpless when they are being bullied- even some who have turned to hurting themselves or suicide because they don’t see anyway out. As a person who was bullied during my 5th grade year—I can relate to feeling so frustrated and upset and misunderstood and stuck, overwhelmed and targeted while I was being bullied- and I vowed that I would do whatever it took to help young people feel confident in their own skin, speak up when they see something is not right, and help the adults who love kids to know some tips and scripts to be helpful when a child is being bullied. You have heard the podcast with Rosalind Wiseman when we spoke abut creating a culture of dignity among young people- now we have one of my friends and colleagues, Carrie Goldman, on the show, to talk more about bullying, in particular.

How to Talk to Kids about Death & Dying with Joe Primo

Special Guest: Joe Primo

Having a conversation about death and dying is not typically a conversation people are excited to have with their kids. And yet, we all know it’s necessary. A friend of mine came over to me at a party the other day. She had just found out that her mother-in-law had stage 4 cancer. While dealing with her own whirlwind of emotions, knowing that I provide tips and scripts to have these tough conversations with kids, she asked me; “What do I tell the kids? What if they ask me if she’ll die? What do I say when she does?” The concept of dying can be scary, sad, confusing, angering and upsetting for many of us. Our own emotions, our concern about our children’s emotions- how they are going to take the news- how they are going to cope with life when someone they love dies- how might they grieve—what’s normal- these can make us worry about having the conversations in the first place. Not to mention, our confusion over what to say and how to say it can make this topic on how to talk to kids about death and dying- a real tough one.

How to Talk to Kids about Sex featuring Dina Alexander

Special Guest: Dina Alexander

So who wants more information about how to have THE talk with their kids. You know the one. THE SEX TALK! This is one of those conversations that often makes us all squirm in our seats and yet, gotta have it. And remember, while you may not be talking to your kids about sex yet, you’ll need to talk about it at some point—and likely sooner than later, no matter what your family values are and what you personally think your children should or shouldn’t be doing. And for those of you who have already been in the thick of it—perhaps you’ve already had a discussion about privacy, your child’s body or sex itself – remember, it’s never one big talk, but a series of little ones, so this podcast can help provide you with one, two or three extra nuggets you might not have thought of yet when the topic comes up again. And you know it will! It always does.

10 Powerful Conversation Starters: How to Talk to Kids about Resilience

From bullying to disasters to the scary happenings we see on the news, raising kids in today’s world can be challenging. It’s easy to see why teachers, parents, coaches and other adults in the lives of children want to shield children from all hardships. Of course, this isn’t possible and over-protecting children and keeping them from experiencing failure isn’t the answer to adversity. What is? Teaching resilience.

Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” from stress, challenge, trauma, failure and adversity. We see it when our kids pick themselves up after they fall and try again. We see it when they study harder, try out again, make the 3rd attempt, and solve problems on their own even though they could take the easy way out. I like to explain it this way:

Think about an elastic band. You can stretch it out, twist it, pull it– and what happens when you stop stretching it? It bounces back. Just like an elastic band, resilience allows us to “bounce back” when we are pulled, stretched, twisted and challenged. Now think of a rubber ball. What happens when you throw that rubber ball down at the floor or at the wall? It bounces back! Just like an elastic band or a rubber ball, resilience allows us to “bounce back” when life gets tough or challenging. We can be like that elastic band or that rubber ball! When life pushes us down…we bounce back up!

Feel free to use the 10 Conversation Starters to help you talk about resilience with the children in your life. The Powerful Word of the Month is resilience for July– but this is a word we can use all year long to help us through anything that pulls us out of our comfort zone or challenges our emotions, frustration level or even physical being. I’m thinking of you every step of the way- and come up onto Facebook so we can discuss all kinds of great topics on Facebook or request to be in the brand new; How to Talk to Kids about Anything private group!

Thank you for being part of our family!

How to Talk to Kids about the Power of Different with Dr. Gail Saltz

Special Guest: Dr. Gail Saltz

Every parent wants his or her child to be happy and successful. As parents, we learn from many books, experts, our own parents that there is a formula for this—they get enough sleep, we feed them right, we send them to school, give them love and boundaries, make sure they do their homework, we put them in the right sports, get them involved with enrichment activities—the brain and body develops and our child will be successful. Of course, in practice, this is often not such a clear-cut picture.

No child is the same as another. No brain is the same as another. And sometimes, when children don’t seem to be following the preconceived pattern that we expected, that we learned about, maybe that we hoped for, we might wonder how our child, who is different from the norm could become happy and successful. It turns out, as some have already discovered, that there is a power in being different and as parents, we can help cultivate, inspire and build upon that difference and that’s where the magic can happen. What magic you might wonder? What is the power of different? That’s why we are privileged to have our amazing guest, Dr. Gail Saltz, for today’s podcast episode.

How to Talk to Kids about Making & Keeping Friends with Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore

Special Guest: Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore

Friendship can be a beautiful part of life. We laugh, cry, play, talk and experience life with friends as we grow up. I mean, thinking back to your childhood, no doubt there are many moments that many of us can remember that involve friends. But that doesn’t mean that friendship is a simple construct. There are important skills that kids must develop in order to make and keep friends. How do they make friends? How do they learn to understand their friend’ feelings? How do they learn be part of the group and still maintain their own individuality and how do they let go to forgive or even more on from a friendship? For these questions, we are turning to Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD

How to Talk to Kids about being Mentally Strong with Amy Morin, LCSW

Special Guest: Amy Morin, LCSW

Ever wonder: What is the secret of success? Is it intelligence? Talent? Luck? Perhaps a bit. But more and more the research is telling us that the X-factor—the reason why some people fail and other succeed comes down to grit or what is sometimes referred to as mental toughness or mental strength. What is mental strength? How can we develop it? And How can parents, teachers and coaches help kids to develop mental strength? These are just some of the questions we are going to get answers to on today’s podcast with Amy Morin.

How to Talk to Kids about Suicide, Sexual Assault & 13 Reasons Why with Dr. Dae Sheridan

Special Guest: Dr. Dae Sheridan

The topic of sexual assault, suicide and cyber-bullying are certainly topics that are well covered in the news but not topics that parents and educators often love to cover with kids. But today’s topic has, of late, been the recipient of a great deal of media coverage and concern among parents and educators. Why?

How to talk to kids about resourcefulness with Scott Sonenshein

Special Guest: Scott Sonenshein

This podcast provides:

Tips: How to help our kids do more with less and become more resourceful. How can we be more creative? Scott also talks about taking “field trips,” creative atypical birthday parties, reaffirming play, modeling, little seed creativity.

Scripts: Saying no to our children, what to say when your child wants a new toy

Steps: Taking a child through how to be resourceful when wanting a new toy. How can we look at what we have in unique ways?

Barriers to success: By saying yes to everything we create a dependence on “more stuff” and we rob our kids of the ability to get creative.