More on Talking with Children about Paris Attacks

Our post yesterday considered the need to talk with young people about the atrocities in Paris, and about death generally. Other articles relating to this can be found on the internet – two of which may be helpful.


It’s really about listening and alleviating fear” says Elisabeth King, from the Lycee Francais in New York.

Other key pieces of advice from this article. . . . . .

  • Ask open ended questions about their feelings.
  • Allow your child to share his or her ideas and speculations.
  • Help them to separate what they know from what they are guessing about.

There’s a caveat to this. You can’t suddenly expect children to voice their opinions and express their feelings if they’re not accustomed to doing so. We really shouldn’t wait for crises to occur before we allow and skill children to talk, and listen. This is why a planned programme of work for Personal, Social and Health Education is so important.

A crucial comment from child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr Steven Berkowitz,

“A lot of adults are pretty overwhelmed and scared by this, and they have to be aware of their own feelings . . . If you’re feeling that way as an adult or caregiver, which is understandable, it’s important that you get support from somebody else and not put it onto the kids.”

As the Italian Education Minister, Stefania Giannini said, “Reject, today more than ever, any temptation toward xenophobia or racism”.


[We’re assuming this comment is directed to parents and carers rather than teachers].

In the Guardian:

Key points from this article,

  • Try to get them to explain what they know, and why it’s scary.
  • Acknowledge that it is reasonable to be scared and horrified.
  • Then explain that attacks like these are rare.
  • Encourage your children to develop a sense of proportion, to think about the nature of risk.
  • Encourage them to think about what is being claimed, how they would argue against it, and what they think they could do to help resolve the problems as they understand them

The article refers to a document from the French paper Liberation – written specifically for children

A rough translation of some of the text says,

“Although what happened is very sad and very difficult, attacks are very rare, though we can’t say there will be more . . . Fear can create bad reactions . . .  It is normal to be afraid, and if you hear things you don’t understand or that worry you, you should speak to an adult like a parent or a teacher . . . . . .”

The most important piece of advice is that we should all try to make children safe, and that even if we have to spend time talking with our children about difficult issues, it should be followed with safe and familiar times.

As Anne Perkins says at the end of the article, at the end of any conversation “go for hugs, teddy and the Paddington DVD.”

A beautiful example of how to talk with a child is in this clip, where a father talks with his child about guns and flowers.


Child: But there’s bad guys Daddy

Dad: There’s bad guys everywhere

Child: They have guns, they can shoot us because they’re really, really mean Daddy

Dad: It’s okay, they might have guns but we have flowers

Child: But flowers don’t do anything, they’re for, they’re for. . . . . .

Dad: Of course they do. Look, everyone is putting flowers. It’s to fight against guns

Child: It’s to protect?

Dad: Exactly

Child: And the candles too?

Dad: It’s to remember the people who are gone yesterday

Child: The flowers and candles are here to protect us.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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