After the terror attacks in Paris, the world has been left stunned, terrified, unsettled. In the aftermath, news coverage has been continuous and emotional, and parents who are having a hard time explaining what happened to themselves are inevitably having to explain it to their kids. One French dad, captured in an interview with his toddler outside the Bataclan theatre, did his best.
The little French boy’s name is Brandon, and when a Canal+ reporter asked him if he understood why the terrorists killed 129 in Paris, his answer was as straightforward and heartbreakingly simple as one would expect from a small child, NBC News reported.
“Yes, because they are very bad. Bad people aren’t very nice. And you have to be very careful because you need to move house.”
Angel Le is being praised on social media (a video of the brief and touching exchange went viral) for his parenting skills. The dad calmly and matter-of-factly explained the sobering truth to his son: “There are baddies everywhere. There are bad guys everywhere.” And for that reason, they wouldn’t be moving, he said, because “France is our home.”
The exchange between the dad and his little boy that followed is heart-wrenching.
Boy: They’ve got guns. They can shoot us because they’re very, very bad, Daddy.
Dad: They’ve got guns, but we have flowers.
But flowers don’t do anything.
Look, everyone is laying flowers here.
It’s to fight against the guns.
Is it for protection?
And the candles too?
They’re so we don’t forget the people who have gone.
Oh. The flowers and candles are there to protect us?
Journalist: Do you feel better now?
Boy: Yes, I feel better.
According to the Evening Standard, the Canal+ reporter, who was filming a show called Le Petit Journal for the station, interviewed numerous French parents who gathered at memorials created across Paris in the wake of the terror attacks. Angel Le is just one of many people, both in France and across the world, who’ve spent the week explaining to their kids why armed men stormed normal, everyday places — restaurants, a concert hall, a soccer stadium — and killed normal, everyday Parisians, killing 129.
How does one explain something as random and terrifying as terrorism to a child? Plenty of advice columns have sprung up in the days following the Paris attacks in an attempt to help moms and dads through this difficult task.
Family coach and psychotherapist Carole Bloch wrote for the Huffington Post that the best approach is the one that the French dad took: tell the truth. The worst thing parents can do is to avoid the topic because children will be exposed to the news in one way or another and they will need help processing what they’ve heard.
The approach should be different, depending on how old the child is. French dad Le did exactly what Bloch recommended for little ones Brandon’s age: “explain what happened as if you were telling a story about good people and villains, without worrying too much about the words.”
For children a few years older, describe the Paris terror in the context of video games, which often contains violence. For teens, terror is a chance to explain politics and religion.
French parent and resident of Paris, Pamela Druckerman, wrote in a The New York Times op-ed about her experience and the difficulty she’s had trying to explain the terror to her kids; the Bataclan is a six-minute walk from her apartment.
The French equivalent of Dr. Spock, psychoanalyst Françoise Dolto, stressed that kids don’t need to be constantly happy, but they do need to understand what’s going on. And when parents explain things like terror, the truth is always best.
“It’s far worse if kids sense that something’s wrong, but no one talks to them about it.”
Kids in Paris have spent the week wondering how a baby grows up to be a terrorist, if they or their parents are going to be shot, too, why people were killed if they didn’t do anything wrong, and why the attackers perpetrated violence only to kill themselves afterward.
These are incredibly tough questions for a kid, and even tougher to explain. Angel Le did the best he could, which is all a dad can do. There is no “magic formula,” as Bloch put it, but don’t stay silent about terror attacks.
[Photo By Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images]