Attacks in Nice: talking with children

Attacks in Nice: talking with children

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Difficult responsibility for parents: talk to children about what happened, with sensitivity and taking into account their need for reassurance. Since January 2015, Françoise Guérin, clinical psychologist, notes how much the attacks have echoes in his office, where she receives many children and parents. We asked him for advice.

This attack occurs in summer, at a time when families are sometimes disconnected from the news. Should we take the opportunity to spare this news to children?

  • It's a safe bet that kids will hear about it anyway: by catching a conversation on the beach, on a train, by the TV in a restaurant or by the radio in the car. Do not trust that they are looking elsewhere or continuing to play. It is often believed that a child hears better when he looks at the adult in the eyes: it is false. Faced with information difficult to apprehend for him, the child looks away, does something else, but he listens! It is in the nature of children to be curious and open to their environment. We must assume that they have grasped something of what happened.

What to say, then?

  • If they have been confronted by images on TV, or have heard a radio flash, it is better to talk about it immediately. Otherwise, let the questions come. We can start from what they understood, from what they saw, and try to make them say what they felt: it's scary, it makes you sad, it makes you angry ... If they do not do not have the ability to put words on their emotions, we can say, we, what we feel.
  • As much as a summary of the facts, and if possible, not to provide details they did not know. Because the children cling to the details ("There were children? They were how old? And the truck, it was what color? What was that brand? ...") and by these details, they identify. A very strong identification can be a factor of great anxiety. Saying the minimum and leaving the door open is a good strategy: "We can talk about it later, if you want."
  • Attention, some young children can "go into a spin" in endless questioning that translate their distress. The questions are linked without appeasement. In this case, we must allow ourselves to put an end to this "whirlwind" which causes anxiety to mount. "That's enough. Let's do something else ... "It is also important to repeat that there are no answers to everything.

The images are difficult to sustain ...

  • As much as possible, children should be spared exposure to images. In the field of news, the impact of images is far superior to that of speech. The images of the real (bodies of the victims, panic, wounded, blood, face of the aggressors ...) are impossible to treat: on the psychical plane, one does not know what to do with it, it is besides why they "snatch". The "too real" is a source of anxiety, it is important to reduce the crudity. In consultation, I received children who had seen too much. One of them, for example, saw in his nightmares the faces of the alleged killers of the Bataclan attacks.

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