I am reluctantly but fairly surely approaching the point where I fear my home will have to become a news free zone – at least when the kids are around. As a journalist and news presenter I am, as you might guess, a news junkie. When I’m not reading the news, then it’s either on the TV – or on in the car (despite my kids protestations that they want to listen to Capital Radio!). But as the terror attacks in this country and around the world increase in their frequency I feel the need more and more to insulate my children’s innocent little ears from the horror of what is happening around us. Three terror attacks in this country alone in the past three months.
I used to relish sharing what is happening in the news with my children – encouraging their many questions and feeding their inquisitive minds. The oldest two understand we have another election this week – they knew about the EU referendum last year even if they didn’t quite understand its implications. They know all about the election of Donald Trump and my oldest certainly has his own fairly strong views about the current President of the USA. Just last week they asked what I had done at work that day, so I explained the main news story and we had a long conversation about the Paris Accord and about global warming. My heart swelled with pride as they came up with their own policies they would like to implement to combat climate change should they be Prime Minister. I want them to grow up knowing and understanding the world. But how do we explain this? This terror which is being inflicted upon us? I cannot understand, let alone explain it to my children’s precious young impressionable minds.
My kids are nine, six and four years old. My nine year old is fairly sensitive and doesn’t even want to hear on the news about people dying – at the best of times. These are, it is safe to say, certainly not the best of times.
The morning after the Manchester attack we were in the car doing the school run and the headlines came on the radio. I hurriedly turned it down but not before my son heard the words ‘suicide bomb’ and ‘Manchester’. It’s a city we know and love, visiting the kids’ grandparents there frequently. I didn’t want him worrying or anxious about what could happen next time we visited.
I don’t want my children growing up living in fear – looking over their shoulder whenever they are out, worrying about an attack on public transport, at a concert, at their school. I find myself living with an almost low level constant anxiety about an attack, whether I’m on the tube, in central London, in a shopping centre, on a plane, my thoughts always at some point turn to the fear of a terrorist incident. I don’t want this for them.
Over the past year or so I’ve read several different articles suggesting how best we talk to children about what is going on. How we should only answer their questions and give age appropriate responses. But I struggle to think of an age appropriate explanation for a nine, six or four year old as to how someone can strap a bomb to themselves and blow up innocent children – their age!
Perhaps I’m just naive – putting off the inevitable. After all, sooner or later they will need to know. But I would prefer it to be later.
For now I’ve decided, and I can hardly believe I’m saying this, when the kids are around, our home will be a news free zone. If they come to me with questions, things they’ve heard from other people, I will try my best to answer them, as I too struggle to understand and make sense of the world we now live in.
Samantha Simmonds is a TV News Presenter.