Should parents talk to children about carnage?

Updated: 2015-11-17 07:56

By Agence France-Presse in Paris(China Daily)

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With saturation media coverage of the Paris terrorist attacks, parents are asking themselves if they should talk to their children about the killings - and how they should go about it.

Most child psychology experts believe that children should be told, but warn that parents have to be careful not to allow them to be overwhelmed by fear or horror at what happened.

Above all, they must not let their own emotions or anguish intrude.

Bernard Golse, head of pediatric psychology at France's leading children's hospital, Necker, said the subject can even be broached with very young children "from the age of three".

"They feel the anguish and anxiety of adults. Not saying anything is even more worrying for them because they imagine it is worse than it is," he said.

"There isn't a wrong way of talking about it. But not talking about it is always bad."

Psychologist Jeanne Siaud-Facchin argued that before the age of six it is better "to spare" children because until then they do not have the "capacity to understand".

"There are no rules," she said, "but I think it is essential to leave them in their child's world and not to expose them to (these kind of) images or words because they will only take emotions without understanding their meaning. The only thing that they will understand is raw and worrying fear," she said.

But if they ask questions, parents should not lie, Siaud-Facchin added.

"Better to keep it a bit hazy. Say that 'fighters have attacked the country' or that you are worried because serious things have happened in the world of adults that does not concern them," she added.

But how do we explain such terrible things to them? Above all, avoid using words like "carnage", "massacre" or "bloodbath". "These words create more fear than images do. They carry an emotional violence," said Caroline Gaertner, a journalist at a leading French children's weekly newspaper.

She questions whether we should even use words like "war" and "terrorism", arguing that "for a child, war means that there is fighting everywhere".

(China Daily 11/17/2015 page12)