How to talk to kids about terrorist attacks

After the London attacks, these discussions become more important.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Rob Smalley is a parent of three who, after watching the morning news Sunday, took his kids down to D.C.’s British Embassy to lay a bouquet of flowers.

Smalley said he was there to give his condolences and to show solidarity.

“That we feel for them and that we understand what they’re going through,” he said.

Smalley said it was also a way of talking it through with his kids.

"It's hard to explain it to them especially," he said. "I have three [kids]. I have a 17-year-old that understands a bit more of what's going on, and it's harder to explain to him the mindset of people who would do things like that."

Here's what experts with the American Academy of Pediatric suggest.

Among the youngest age groups limit the graphic pictures:

  • Ages 0 - 5: Don't need to be made aware. Zero to minimal media coverage.
  • Ages 6 - 11: Basic facts. Minimal exposure to media coverage.
  • Ages 12 - 18: Start by asking what they know.

RELATED: London Attacks: Mystery that Britain is recent target

As for how to talk to kids, just be honest. It might seem counterintuitive, but acknowledging uncertainty can make kids feel more safe and secure.

Tell the truth, ask open-ended questions, but don't say there's no reason to be scared.

It's advice championed by Mr. Fred Rogers before he died in 2003.

“We often find that they're fantasies are very different from the actual truth,” he said. “What children probably need to hear most from us, is that they can talk to us about anything."

Rogers also famously encouraged parents and children to look for the helpers who rush to the scene of a tragedy.

"Because where there's helpers there's hope," he said.

It's advice Smalley is taking to heart.

"I'm trying to teach them to be aware of their surroundings to make plans as to what to do if something does happen," he said. "But to continue to live your life because sheltering in your house is not the correct way of living.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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