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In the face of the Paris attacks tragedy, there are important lessons we can teach our children.

Five months ago, my family wandered the streets of Paris, joyously and carefree, full of the wonder and elation of being in this beautiful iconic city.

Today, when Parisians wake up to the horror and reality of what their city has endured, there are few that will be able to do the same. Joyous and carefree will be no longer be a terms of reference for life in Paris for a long time. Perhaps ever.

How do you recover and find trust and innocence when that has been carefully and strategically torn from you?

Paris is no stranger to tragedy. On January 2015, 16 innocent people lost their lives in a terrorist attack in the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper offices. The city regrouped, recovered and tentatively went about their business knowing life could never quite be the same again. Today, that bandaid of recovery has been brazenly and intentionally ripped off and any semblance of trust and normality has disappeared in the time it took for a suicide bomber to detonate a bomb outside a packed football stadium.

Everyone will have a story. Their stories may involve close calls, lifesaving change of plans, or knowing people, who knew people who lost their lives. The targets were simple yet effective – a stadium full of passionate football supporters, restaurants full of Friday evening diners, a concert hall of young Parisians. I’ve heard of Australian parents not being able to contact their Year 12 daughters on a post exam holiday in Paris for six hours, unaware that their daughters’ phones were turned off as they slept. These girls so easily could be in a concert hall in Paris on a Friday night. Their parents thought they were.

By targeting innocent, decent people doing normal things on a normal day, the terrorists cut to the core of the community.

Our European itinerary featured stadium tours of our three sons’ favourite football teams and if a football game had been on while we were in Paris, without doubt we would have been there.

Staying in an edgier part of town, we cruised like locals, inhaling Paris to remind ourselves once safely back in our suburban Sydney lives, that we had given Paris a red hot go. My kids worked the Metro like pros, they queued, took selfies, did touristy stuff, did non-touristy stuff. They experienced Paris rather than observed it. I want them to come back and do exactly the same thing (but perhaps without the $10 cokes in the Café Les Deux Magots)

They walked freely with disregard for anything other than experiencing Paris.

They need to still do this. Because in our children’s short lives we’ve seen terrorism become an unwelcome part of the life they know with terrorist attacks in New York, Madrid, London, Paris and in their own city of Sydney, 100m away from where their dad worked. We haven’t shielded them – they watch the newsreels, they see the images – this is part of their lives, we can’t pretend it’s not.

But even the bad can be good – I want my children to see the solidarity, the outpouring of grief and disbelief, the doors opening to strangers and the global swell of support – this is a sign of their times that is genuine, heartfelt and generous.

I want my children to understand that we’re all not the same and that political and religious differences are common. The world they live in is not vanilla, nor perfect, nor safe. This is their reality.

I want my kids to live freely. I don’t want my kids to live with ‘what if’s’ and let fear of the unknown define them. And if we can continue to do this in the face of the Paris tragedy and others like this, then from the ‘tragic’ can come ‘amazing’. I choose amazing.

How do you want your children to understand the Paris attacks tragedy? Or will you shield them from it?

  • The world is not a very nice place at times! We have to take the good with the bad. that is life.

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  • I have always allowed my daughter to see both good and bad – I think it’s important that she understand that there are no guarantees in life, and it can be unfair. Bearing that in mind, time is precious so we must continue on with our lives, making the most of the time we have and appreciating every minute of every day.

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  • yes such a hard time for paris! would be nice to live in a world that was a lot better.

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  • Both my kids are older and fully aware of what has happened. I have a daughter who leaves in 2 weeks to go to Europe and now I am quite afraid. I would never stop her but I will be counting the days until her return.

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  • I would shield my children from it, there are just too many atrocities that cannot be explained or understood, even for us adults. I think the world in general needs to clamp down on Muslims. We’re all letting them into our safe countries, because of the horrible lives they had in their own countries, and they’re bringing their poison extremists with them. I know it’s unfair to lump them all into the same pile, but until we gave a handle on what’s happening and gain sone control over it, I think it’s what needs to be done! Apparently, the ‘good’ Muslims aren’t speaking up against the extremists because the Western countries aren’t (allegedly) interested when the extremists target the ‘good’ Muslims….only when they target Westerners. It’s a dilemma but we need to limit their presence I our safe countries!

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  • I have four children under five so I try to shield them away from such acts of violence but hubby and I both try to instil respect, tolerance, freedom and the importance of kindness from this young age. It’s also important that they understand that sometimes bad things happen by bad people but most of humanity is good regardless of what colour they or what God they believe in.

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  • I simply just want these terrorists ..all terrorists, caught and dealt with.

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  • The solidarity that came out from this tragic experience, is really overwhelming. I agree that we have to go on, let the fear not shape our lives. But it’s surely difficult. Depending on the age of the kids, we also have to be quite careful about what we say.
    Thanks for the insightful article!

    Reply

  • We do discuss these horrendous events – but we do show caution and we do not allow the children to watch the news which re-runs the images again and again and again. Adult brains process and understand news and events differently to children. Their brains have not yet developed to the point of being able to fully process these events. As a parent it is my job to shield my children, educate most certainly, but most importantly teach them love and not hate. Discuss this event with them and then move forward with doing something positive. The people that committed and commit these acts want people to live in fear and watch the footage again and again and again and be too scared to go anywhere and do anything. I say “NO” and choose to move forward as a mark of respect for those that have lost their lives and for their families whose grief with be all consuming.


    • I love what you said. I completely agree with your “NO”

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  • my heart aches with sadness and anger for the people of France. I hope they find the strength to stand tall and fierce again soon – terrorist’s will not win and will not have the last say

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  • keep the solidarity coming france, open those doors to help march and sing your anthem… these idiots would hate it

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  • My daughter is too little so we have not discussed it

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  • We chose to watch the news and discuss, it’s important for young children to know what goes on in the world and be able to discuss their emotions as well as how such events affect everyone. It’s a good opportunity to discuss tolerance, differences and what we can do to help.

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  • We have to look for whatever positives we can from any situation, even tragedies such as this. There are already signs of united fronts from Australia, USA etc towards France.

    Reply

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