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I Heart ManchesterSince last Monday’s tragic attack in Manchester which seemed to be targeting our most vulnerable citizens, I’ve been asked several times ‘How do you talk to children or Looked After Children about something as horrific as this?’ 

I have considered many times whether to write this article, with so much being said on the scrolling news channels and in every newspaper and debate shows. I do feel I can’t ignore such a monumental event, but also want to be respectful and not add to anyone’s distress or pain. 

Without doubt your child will have been exposed to images, news or fake news about last Monday’s terror attack almost regardless of their age, and if they are school age you have to hope that their school dealt with the children’s distress, questions and concerns sensitively. 

In our house, we do listen to the news in the morning if I can get to the TV before J puts on Adventure Time, and whilst I am no fan of scrolling news on 24 hour News Channels (see my blog from last summer dealing with bad news), I do believe it is important that children know the difference between real and fake news. M’s social media feeds are full of sensationalised stories and she is forever starting conversations that start ‘did you know...?’ then repeating stories she’s heard or read from the internet. I don’t question everything she tells me, but I do ask her where she heard it and how she knows it’s true. She’s got a lot better at identifying fake news and it started with her researching vegetarianism. My background is in academia and I talk to her about how a scientific article is fact checked, referenced and peer reviewed before it can be published, so I’ve learnt never to accept something just because someone said it was true.

M only talked to us about the Manchester terror attacks on the first day after the bomb. Being an Ariana Grande fan, she is right in the age group of some of the younger victims. M and her group of close friends have seemed to self counsel and didn’t want a lot of input from us. However, as I suspected it was J who was most affected by it and he seemed more isolated by his fear of bad things happening. His school held a special assembly and it was addressed with respect and children were offered the opportunity to talk about it. When J asked us about the bomb we decided to tell him the truth and not minimise events. We told him the world was full of wonderful good people and that bad people were in the minority. We agreed with him that it was very sad and shouldn’t have happened. We knew he would go away and think about what we had said so we didn’t complicate our answers and we didn’t try to tell him that everything would be ok and nothing bad would ever happen again.

Instead we focused on the wonderful stories of strength and kindness that were emerging. We talked about the taxi drivers picking people up, driving them to safety, the medical teams, police and fire crew and the heroic strangers that came to the aid of people they didn’t know. J heard about the homeless men story that circulated the news and he said something very profound which reduced me to tears once he had turned away.

I have friends in Manchester and many attended the outdoor services. They said the overwhelming feelings were not of anger or even defiance but love and kindness. M has chosen not to talk to us about the Manchester attack, but did say that Laela, a girl in her class, had been called a terrorist. M was very angry and summed it up succinctly ‘Just because she’s a Muslim doesn’t make her a terrorist. It’s a bit like saying all white people are members of the National Front’. She delivered that bit of wisdom in between mouthfuls of toast and I could only applaud her logic.

If you have concerns about how to talk to a child about radicalisation or Muslim bullying, Fosterline offer guidance here. Fosterline is an impartial, confidential advice service available to foster carers. 

*Photo courtesy of Twitter