Let me begin with all sympathies to the victims, survivors, and their families, and the people of Norway.

I am sad and angry and deeply feel the fact that I cannot protect my family from an atrocity. I feel impotent. What can I do?

  1. Children can't avoid finding out about these events. How can we explain such terrible acts to children in a way that doesn't cause them harm?
  2. What can we do to instruct children to handle such a situation if they ever find themselves in one?
  • 2
    "3." is off-topic for this site. The first two are good. Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 16:21
  • Agreed on 3. I will edit after others have weighed in.
    – Paul Cline
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 16:22
  • Agreed 3 is off topic, although #1 seems like the World War 2 question to me - parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/1457/…. #2 I'm not sure about, that is tricky since it's probably not instructive to drill your kids for such things. Trying to tell them to be safe is one thing, teaching them to be like Alyssa Milano in "Commando" is another.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 17:44
  • Eliminated part 3.
    – Paul Cline
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 18:54
  • 3
    I would still answer #1 the same way I answered parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/1457/… - you know what your kids can handle so answer accordingly.
    – MichaelF
    Commented Jul 25, 2011 at 19:19

2 Answers 2


ad 1)

A Danish newspaper has an article with a child psychologist, from which I'll try to distill the essence. (I think Google Translate can give you a translation but the result is blocked on my network.)

  • Even the smallest children can feel that something is bothering you, even if they only experience it second-hand, filtered, and fragmented.
  • Parents of small children (pre-schoolers) need to show that they've got them covered, that they know what's right and wrong, that they're in control.
  • One way of being in control is to seize the TV's remote control. Don't be afraid to say that's horrible, you shouldn't watch that.
  • Keep an eye on what they're playing. Kids express themselves through play, interaction with others, and creativity. If they start to integrate elements of the tragedy, then join in and (covertly) direct the play to something else.
  • Don't deny facts. Something terrible happened. But give short answers that closes the issue. Word it like a newspaper headline that omits any details that can fuel their fantasy and fear. Details are often not needed.

The article links to another Norwegian website (Google's translation here).

ad 2)

You can't prepare meaningfully against acts of terrorism.

You can prepare against calculable risks such as school-yard bullies or stalkers.

  • Don't be a hero, just protect yourself.
  • Use your training [martial arts, or whatever you favor] to defend/protect/hide yourself.
  • Don't put yourself in situations that can obviously become dangerous (like being peer-pressured into jumping from bridges, or whatever).

If your child needs explaining such things, I assume he starts exposing himself to the bad things happening in the real world. I would focus on getting him to understand that sometimes people do bad things. If your child is a teenager, I'd rather discuss this accident, not explain it, since his personality is already developed.

As for ways to handle violent situations, I'd suggest to get your child into some martial arts section.

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