Talking to children about bad things

Like many, the dreadful murder of Jo Cox MP was on my mind when I came in from work last night. E coming to greet me with a big hug was exactly what I needed. But when both her parents sat down to watch the news before her bedtime, she knew something was up.

I have no idea how you explain something like this a young child. With slightly older offspring it is perhaps easier but E is four and her concepts of death, hate and nastiness are very hazy. In her play, if someone is hurt it’s always fixable, no one is ever unpleasant or fights and even though we have some books where things (usually animals or pets) die, she doesn’t know what this means.

She sat on my lap and asked what we were watching. Then she asked what ‘the news’ was. Easy enough. But then she wanted to know what was going on. I decided it was silly to pretend nothing was happening – I was upset, she had picked up on my mood and we never usually watch TV during the day. I told her a lady had been hurt.

“What did she do?” she said. “Nothing. A nasty man hurt her.” Then there were lots of pictures of Jo Cox on the screen. “Is that the lady?” “Yes.” “Who is looking after her?” “She’s at the hospital.”

At no point did she ask why he’d hurt her, which would have been difficult – how do you explain random hate? I have, in the past,told her that people often get angry when they’re scared of something or if they don’t know much about something. I’ve told her it’s ok to be scared sometimes but she must talk to people about it and that it’s good to be brave. This was enough for last night, and she sat on my lap and gave me lots of hugs and kisses until it was bath time.

We know this kind of thing will go on. So I guess the best thing we can do for our small people is to tell them the truth, reassure them that we will do all we can to keep them safe and teach them that being kind and accepting of others is the best thing we can all do. I send all kinds of love to the two small people waking up without their mum this morning and cherish this time with my own.

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