Hannah is 7, she is growing up in a world very different to the one I grew up in not that long ago. My world was full of playing on the streets, walking alone to friends homes, walking alone to school, all when I was not a lot older than Hannah is now. My parents didn’t need to speak to me about the horrors of this world – they weren’t common problems and they didn’t need to tell me. The world Hannah grows up in is very different. The news is dark and horrifying, sometimes on a daily basis. We often have the news channel on at home and I wouldn’t say she actually sits and tunes in but she does pick up random stuff and asks questions. She knows the basics of politics – who the prime minister is and what her role is, she knows about the conflict in Syria and she knows that people are regularly hurt or killed on the streets because of knife crime.
Recently, after the London terror attack, I explained to Hannah about the kind of people who carry out these attacks. I used words like TERRORIST, BOMB, SHOOTING, KILLING…why would I sugar coat it? This is whats happening in the world she is growing up in and she needs to know. I don’t use words like ‘naughty people’ or ‘hurting people’ because I don’t want her to think its the same as a child being naughty or being hurt like when her sister pinches her or pulls her hair.
The school Hannah attends is new and is ‘growing organically’ so her year two class is the oldest in the school. She doesn’t hear from older children in the playground purely because she is one of the oldest ones. I am careful to explain to her that not all parents are as open and honest with their children, that this is their choice and in order to respect this she isn’t to speak to other children about things we discuss at home.
After the news of the terror attack in Manchester on Monday Night, she came down to watch the news on Tuesday Morning and said ‘Oh is it another terror attack’ then carried on getting her breakfast. It bothers me that to her the news of another terror attack is the most normal thing, almost to be expected. We had a conversation about the positives, the people who ran back to help, the people opening their homes to strangers, the taxi drivers transporting people for free and then that ONE person who made a ‘bad decision’. I strongly emphasized how it doesn’t happen often and how there are only a few people who carry out acts like this. We spoke about how this can happen anywhere at any time and how to protect herself and what to do in an emergency. Surely its better to prepare our children for the real world and not pretend its not happening or that its going to get better overnight?
I understand some people will feel that at 7 she is too young to take on such distressing information but its not going away and it doesn’t appear to be getting any better so for now I wont sugar coat it. I will be honest and focus on the positives. While I want to preserve her innocence, I can only do that for so long and I would rather she heard from me than someone else. I cant wrap her up in bubble wrap and keep her with me, protected from the evils of the world so I would rather prepare her now teach her how to protect herself for the times when I can’t protect her.
Most importantly I have asked her to not be afraid. To not miss out on opportunities because of fear, to still visit new places and to enjoy her life. As we all should.