How Do we Talk to Children About Terrorism?

What every parent and teacher needs to know according to trauma experts

How to Talk witah Kids About Terrorism infographic

How should we be talking to children about terrorism? Did you know children under six shouldn’t be watching the news? Do you know the biggest worries of high schoolers when they hear of terrorism? Child trauma expert Dr. Steven Berkowitz helps parents and teachers understand how we talk to kids of various ages about terrorism.
Talking to children about terrorism with Dr. Steven Berkowitz.
When terrorism strikes, have conversations with kids but educate yourself first.

Important Takeways: What the Experts Say About Talking to Children About Terrorism

  • Recommendations for watching the news with children
  • The biggest worries of high schoolers and how to talk to them
  • What to say when kids ask “Will this happen to me?”
  • How the news can cause trauma in children
  • How teachers can help children through tough times

Dr. Berkowitz is a widely quoted expert in child trauma. His advice is simple but important for all teachers to understand right now. What you say to kids matters, especially when they are upset.

 After the terrorist attacks in Paris, I used what Dr. Steven Berkowitz taught me in this show as I talked to some upset children. I received a grateful email from a parent thanking me because now her child has her mind at ease. (She wasn’t sleeping and was so upset.)If kids are talking, they want to talk with adults. As always, get traumatized kids help.

Educator Resources and Links from the Show

Quotes to share…

The consensus is that exposure to the media can cause trauma in kids.

Talking with children about terrorism don't put your anxiety onto the kids

Talking to kids about terrorism.

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4 thoughts on “How Do we Talk to Children About Terrorism?

  1. When we started our website, we were flooded with abuse and followed by 90% adults flashing nudity, profanity and photos of bloody violence and rape. When you speak of terrorism, it is confusing when you limit it to war and the news because whether parents know it or not, kids of all ages experience it one way or another everywhere every day.
    It’s great to have positive, supportive healing words, but once you see it and hear it, you will never forget how it made you feel.
    Some kids experience terror in their own personal environments. To address foreign terrorism, but not domestic or personal terror confuses kids into the dysfunctional outcomes they end up in, for example, abusive violent relationships that lead to death and/ or prison, or even gang related lifestyles, unhealthy and unproductive lifestyles, or even a lifestyle that doesn’t contribute effectively to society.
    The point is, to address foreign terrorism and not local terrorism is just as traumatizing.

  2. I don’t suppose it’s much different than when I was in school and we had air raid drills (later renamed ‘take cover’ drills) in which we would protect ourselves from nuclear annihilation by sitting in the school basement with a book over our heads and people were building air raid shelters in their backyards. Or later when we watched footage of the Viet Nam war every night at dinner, or when Detroit (my home) rioted, or when they replayed the Kennedy assassination continuously for what seemed like weeks. It’s probably not that different from what happens in some neighborhoods every night or for black families who live with the background fear, sometimes spiking to terror, that their child/husband/brother will be shot by a policeman for doing some random, normal thing. Or for the children who survive one of the weekly mass shootings that take place in our country. I think the only thing we can do is talk about racism and its ugly fruit, about love and citizenship and responsibility, and about how to stand up to bigots and bullies and other sad, frightened people, to say what is true. I think we should talk to them about their own agency and power.