The terror attacks on London this week shook but also united our Nation. I myself was only in Westminster Square with my family 10 days before this awful attack. It's such an iconic place to visit that most of us can look at what happened and realise, it could have been any of us innocently going about our business on a Spring Day.
We live in a strange time and a scary time but I'm sure most of us cannot remember a time without terrorism in this country. The difference today is that with 24 hour news and social media we can no longer get away from the raw of facts of it either. Everywhere you turn this week the horror of what happened is being talked about and so it grows increasingly more difficult to protect our children from finding out about what a cruel world we sometimes live in.
One of the 'News Items' on Sky news was actually telling us how to talk to our children about what had happened. Later that day, I saw Louise Rednapp had written a piece in Closer Magazine, relaying what she had told her children the day after the terrible attack had happened and throughout the day, I saw many more articles on how to and what to tell your children and it really got me thinking and that's why I'm writing this article.
To my mind (and it's really just my opinion) do we really need to expose our children to anything awful if we can help it? Certainly children under 10 have no need to be watching horrific things on the news channels. The beauty of 24 hour news and online news, is that we can watch the news any time, therefore our kids don't need to see anything terrible and we can read things online without them seeing stuff they don't need to as well. Of course they may hear things from their school friends - but really, is there any need for children to see this stuff or have it explained to them?
We have stories in our culture to help children deal with bad things. Even books like Harry Potter deal with acts of terrorism to some extent but the reason for children's stories historically, is to help prepare children for life in a fantastical way, so they don't have to deal with it all in reality until they are no longer children. Why would we expose them to anything unless it absolutely directly affected them? That's why stories are wonderful and it's how films and books help all of us. We can relate to what's going on and empathise with it, while still being removed from it. I think this is very important when it comes to children and it was probably developed by our ancestors so to prepare children for life, without scaring them to death with the reality of what's outside their front door.
I worry that one of the reasons why there are so many children suffering with mental illness right now is because we tell them too much. We explain too much to them when they are just not ready emotionally to deal with it.
When I was a child life was full of magic. Magically things were use to explain scary things and just basically enhance life so it was wonderful. Children's lives should be full of magical things that feed their imagination. There is enough time for the horrors of real life when they are grown up.
A friend of mine doesn't believe in god (and for the record neither do I). She flat out told her 4 year old that there is no heaven and that once you are dead that's it. I don't believe in heaven but I won't tell Phoenix that there is no heaven until he is much older, just like I won't tell him the truth about Santa until he is ready. Heaven is a wonderful way for children to cope with losing a pet or someone close to them and they can make up their own minds about it when they are old enough to process these things for themselves and at 4 years old I honestly don't think you are emotionally ready to hear that once your cat is dead that's it. no more it's in the sky looking down on yo, it's just gone and that's that.
When I was 5 years old we had a dog that I adored and he died. If someone had told me - he's just worm meal now, I would have freaked the fuck out. By allowing me to believe he was in heaven my parents allowed me to process my own grief and it hasn't turned me in to some religious nut but I truly appreciate that with a little magic they helped me deal with something that I was truly devastated by.
When it comes to bad news I don't remember paying any attention to it at all until I was about 12 years old and I fully intend to keep Phoenix from it too for as long as I can. He can learn about the bad things in life through the magic of stories, especially if those bad things do not directly affect him.
As everyone knows I do not eat animals, Phoenix and his father do. One day he is sure to ask me why I don't eat meat. Now if he is under 9 I will chose my words carefully and be as truthful as I feel he can deal with - once he is at senior school, I will tell hi the truth as I know it but until then I'm not going to scare him with the reality of the terrible met industry and neither will I impose my views on him.
I want him to live in the magical realm of childhood for as long as possible. The world is a terrible place. People are horrible to each other every day. Terrorism exists and each and every day I think I encounter someone who is just a mean person and I think most of us do. So while he is safe with me and safe in his childhood, I will try and keep him from real life horrors for as long as I possibly can do. Hopefully it will never fall on my doorstep so I won't have to.
Sadly not all children do have carefree lives but all of them should, so they can develope as all children have the right to develope, without having to cope with too much at once and with magic in their hearts. Phoenix can learn about bad things through stories and by teaching him this way, I hope I will allow him to cope emotionally with life and all it is, one step at a time.
I think it's time we started treating children like children again. Let's keep them carefree and protect them from the awful things that happen in this world for as long as possible. It's the blessing our parents gave us and somehow it seems to have got lost but we owe it to them and their mental state to protect them all. We don't need to explain adult things to them, we need to tell them stories about the man in the moon and just love them.