It has been a week of mixed emotions. The sadness and fear of the terrorist attacks in London. The loving unity and joy of the One Love concert in Manchester. And the hope of a General Election.
At times like this, I feel parenthood weigh heavy on my shoulders. What should we tell our children? Should we tell them anything at all?
Why we won’t talk to our children about the threat of terrorism…
We have a four-year old daughter, who is constantly curious. Her favourite question is “why?“.
“Why is Peppa Pig a pig, Mummy?”
“Why does mango have a skin, Mummy?“
Our son is only 11 months old. His biggest concerns are when he will get his next snack or meal and if he can escape Mummy long enough to climb the stairs.
Neither of them know anything of bombers attacking innocent concert goers. Or pedestrians being mown down by a van on London Bridge. They don’t know about the wider fears of this world. They haven’t heard of its evils.
Their only knowledge of baddies is from Disney movies or fairytales.
Isn’t this how childhood should be? Why would I want to shatter that innocence?
I’ve recently read a number of articles about the importance of talking to children about world issues, and particularly the fear of terrorism. The theory being that you don’t want your children to hear about these events second or third hand from school friends or other adults. Parents should decide what to tell their children and when.
I understand this, I really do. But my husband and I are in complete agreement that we won’t be talking to our daughter about the recent terrorist attacks. Maybe that is naive. And maybe we’re doing her a disservice. Or underestimating her intelligence.
Of course, if she asks any questions then we will answer them honestly. But we’re not going out of our way to talk to her about the recent events in London and Manchester.
Now is the time to believe in fairytales.
Little Miss H is only four. She’s sweet and innocent. She’ll talk to anyone and she is a happy and lovely child. We want to protect that innocence for as long as possible.
In September, she’ll start school. We’ll need to talk to her about being wary of strangers and the NSPCC’s PANTS underwear rule. It upsets me that part of our role as a parent is to educate her about these evils.
I don’t want to tell her that there are also people in this world who fundamentally disagree with everything she stands for. And who want to threaten her freedom and her life.
There’s plenty of time when she is older for her to worry about the state of the world. And I’m sure that there will be occasions when she goes to bed fearful because she has just read about a terrorist attack.
But now is not the time. Now is the time to believe in fairytales. We want her to imagine that the kiss from a true love can defeat the spell of an evil witch.
Now is the time for her to feel safe and loved. For her to believe that her parents can protect her from anything. And that all is well in the world as long as she is with her family.
…But we will talk to them about the power of democracy
This morning I took Little Miss H to preschool. I popped my polling card in the bottom of the buggy as I planned to vote after drop off. She saw the card and asked me what it was. And of course I told her.
I told her that I was voting in the general election. That it was a day when we could have our say on who should run our country. That whoever won would be able to make decisions about our hospitals, and schools and how we help people less fortunate than ourselves.
I mentioned that Daddy would also be voting. And that one day she and her baby brother would be old enough to vote too.
I told her that she could vote for whoever she believed in the most. But it was crucial that she votes.
And perhaps it seems contradictory that I will talk honestly to her about the general election but not the threat of terrorism.
I couldn’t disagree more. In my opinion, democracy is one of the most beautiful concepts in this world. It is a fair system that allows the people to choose who we want to run our country. Which policies we believe are important and what matters to us.
Why wouldn’t I want my children to know about that?
Mr H and I have always firmly believed that we want to bring our children up to think for themselves. We don’t want to force our beliefs on them. We want them to have their own opinions and stand up for what they think is right.
That is why I told my daughter about the power of democracy and the importance of voting. I didn’t tell her who I was voting for because that is irrelevant.
In the future, I want my children to vote for the policies that speak to them. I want them to vote as their conscience leads them. But most importantly I want them to vote. To have their say. To assert their democratic right. Because the power of democracy is a beautiful thing. It is more powerful than any form of terrorism. And THAT is definitely something I want my children to know about.
“No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline.”