How do you explain something as wicked as ISIS to a child? My default reflex is simply…not to. Protecting an innocent child’s mind from evil is always my first choice.
The beheadings, crucifixions, and random killings of innocents commonly referred to as “soft targets” are acts that we consider evil personified. Add in the sex-slavery and the utter subjugation and you have a culture that is in direct opposition to everything we believe in. Clearly not a culture we want for our children.
Our family learned firsthand how even 6 year olds are aware of ISIS, when, one day out of the blue, 6-year-old Avieryana asked her daddy, “What does ISIS mean?” He simply replied that it was bad people and changed the subject.
From Independence Day to September 11 to Christmas–if it’s a holiday where large crowds will gather, we have a heightened security risk. Our children hear it, they see it in the headlines, and as the threat level rises, so does their awareness of danger.
What do we tell our children?
Before we can really answer that question, we need to know what they are really asking. Watch the interview below. A French reporter from Le Petit Journal asks a little boy still small enough to sit on his daddy’s knee if he understands what has happened. A very telling conversation naturally unfolds between father and son.
The boy is obviously frightened enough to believe that they may have to flee their home for safety.
“They have guns, they can shoot at us because they are very, very bad, Daddy.”
Then the father responds in a gentle voice, “They have guns, but we have flowers.”
Of course, that doesn’t make sense in the boy’s mind. So the child replies, “But flowers do nothing.” In an attempt to change the subject the father quickly asks if he wants to lay flowers. Obviously, what they had originally planned to do.
“But flowers do nothing,” is the child’s the immediate response, to which the dad replies that the flowers are there to fight against the guns.
Oddly, this child is asking adult questions about a very real fear and his father gives him philosophical answers.
Even a child this young understands the danger, and that there are bad people who cause harm. Children need to feel safe. It’s a human instinct. They need to feel physically protected from the danger they perceive. But their minds also need to be protected so that evil doesn’t warp them into its image.
Always answer children according to their level of ability to understand. Share your faith with your children. What do you believe will keep you safe? Share that.
I doubt that this father put his faith in the flowers and candles. Sadly, he’s giving his son false hope. One day, the boy will understand that a flower will not stop a bullet. Candles will not keep a jihadist away.
The child clearly needs to know how his family will be kept safe.
Here’s a follow-up interview with Anderson Cooper: