The school run this morning was a sombre one. After waking up to the tragic news that 22 people, including 12 children, had been killed in last night’s Manchester attack, parents herded their own offspring into school in bewildered sadness, swapping knowing nods of acknowledgement with other mums and dads.
In a couple of weeks, my kids are due to go on a school trip to Westminster Abbey. I hadn’t given it a second thought as I ticked the consent form to allow them to go, but this morning another mum mentioned she would no longer be letting her daughter attend. And I totally get where she’s coming from.
There’s no doubt parenting in an age of fear is a tricky prospect. Though we might want to carry on regardless, in a show of defiance that proves to the terrorists, and our children, that the fun in our lives will not be stolen, it is easier said than done.
The mum who no longer wants to send her child on a school trip won’t be alone, in fact last year a school was forced to cancel a school trip to Belgium as panicking parents were fearful of an attack following the recent terrorist attacks on the country. Others cancelled trips to London in light of the Westminster attack. And no doubt parents will now be thinking twice about allowing to send their kids to any kind of concert.
For many parents, the thought that an attacker deliberately targeted a concert that would be full of children and young people will be enough to strike anything like that off the to-do list.
But can we really lock away our children and never let them witness the joy of going go see their favourite popstar? Won’t curtailing their freedom simply stop them from building the confidence and life skills they have the right to enjoy?
So how do we parent in terrifying times? Here’s how some others will be moving forward in light of last night’s attack….
‘The attack will change my behaviour as a parent’
Claire*, mum to two boys, 11 and 7
“I hate to feel defeated by the threat of terrorism, but it does change my behaviour as a parent – I will be avoiding any unnecessary trips to busy areas of London and any major events. When there are school trips I only really feel happy if I attend, knowing that I am responsible for my child should anything happen. With a child on the cusp of secondary school it will also have repercussions with regards to him socialising anywhere outside of the local area – such as trips to shopping centres or the cinema at Westfield.”
‘Life has to go on as normal’
Sarah* is mum to a daughter, 7 and son, 4
“Despite the horrific events of yesterday, terror attacks are still very rare (thankfully) and life has to continue as normal but with extra vigilance. I will continue to encourage my children to enjoy the wonders of living in a great and vibrant city and embrace what London has to offer, whilst also prepping them with the usual rules of ‘sticking together and travelling in numbers’ etc. And will most definitely quietly worry at home until they get back.”
‘I don’t want to teach my children to live in fear’
Marian* is mum to two sons aged 8 and 5
“I try to be logical about events like last nights’ attack. The chances of falling victim to an act of terrorism remain infinitesimally small. So why should I alter my behaviour or change my plans? This is also a moral issue for me: the ultimate cause of most evil in the world is fear. (Anger, which motivates people who do these kinds of things, is usually a cover for fear.) And by letting myself get terrified I am adding to the sum total of fear in the world and helping indirectly to provide fuel for further atrocities. Also the last thing I want to teach my children is to live in fear.”
‘I want to keep my children inside, but its just not practical’
Yasmin* is mum to a boy aged 7 and twin boys aged 6.
“This morning I want to roll the kids up in a duvet and never let them out of the house. But that just isn’t possible in the long term. I can’t say you can never go to football match again, or a movie or to visit their grandparents in America. Although we are checking our life insurance covers terrorist attacks as it does increase feelings of vulnerability. But then it’s a question of what do we do with those feelings as parents? How to do we manage risk? How do we strike the balance?”
‘I’m skipping the concert I was about to book’
Mel* is mum to a 6-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son
“I was just about to book to take my daughter to a concert on Monday as I know she would absolutely love it, but now I’m not sure whether to go. I’m not sure I will be able to enjoy it as I know I’ll constantly be on edge and looking out for anything suspicious. Also I expect my daughter will hear about last night’s attack from other children at school or via her teachers and I know that in her mind it will be as simple as ‘sometimes when you are at a concert a bad man might set off a bomb so that loads of people die’ and so she might be anxious and worried too….so what would be the point?”
‘We have to carry on’
Nicola* is mum to 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old boy/girl twins.
“As an emergency service worker I guess I have a different perspective because if I let it worry me I would never go to work, never want to leave my children, just in case. I woke up this morning and I was desperately saddened by the news and felt the pain for all of those there, at a family concert, with children inside. Just such a disgusting and barbaric thing to do but I also thought how matter of fact we have become to these attacks now, how we feel the pain and the shock waves from them but we carry on. FB and news feeds are still full of other stories and articles. It’s these small actions that show how much we are resistant to these bullying tactics is where we find our courage and my hope is that, like with all bullies, they eventually get bored because people are no longer glorifying what they do in the name of whom ever or what ever cause. So yes we carry on, we go on school trips and we unite even stronger with people we think we have nothing in common with because it’s together we will solve this not apart and def not in hate.”
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