talk to teens about terrorism

Last night a bomber attacked a crowd of teens and parents of young girls leaving an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. The news came as a particular shock to us because my daughter and I had attended Ariana’s concert in New Orleans just a few weeks ago. My daughter is a huge Ariana Grande fan. So, this is probably the first time that a terrorist attack has touched her in a personal way.


As parents of teens, we’ve lived through our share of terrorist encounters in the United States and other countries around the world. At some point, we’ve had a strong connection to that sense of loss, fear, and immense sadness. You can’t say September 11 without feeling like you have been kicked in the gut even if you didn’t live in New York, Washington, or Pennsylvania at the time. All Americans are sickened by the tragedy. I happened to live in Washington, DC at the time of the attack, so I do have a personal story of the events. I understand what it is like to live in the aftermath of these types of attacks. Most of our children don’t have that experience, and for them, this is hard because it is so relatable to their lives. They know it could have been them or their friends. Fans of Ariana Grande empathize with how heartbroken and guilty this incredibly sweet young woman must be feeling right now.


For parents, this can be hard for similar reasons. Like I said, my daughter and I just attended an Ariana Grande concert. We attend a lot of concerts all over the United States. Yes, it could have been us. Those could have been our children. The first reaction of many parents is to immediately use this tragedy as a reason not to let their children go to concerts and see their music idols perform. The second reaction for American parents is to fear sending their children outside of the United States. I’ve chosen to have a different type of discussion with my daughter.


There are things you can do and places you can go that are real threats to your safety. You should avoid those things and places. You should not live in a bubble where you walk around os engrossed in your phone or own world that you are not aware of the potential sources of danger next to you. We, however, are not going to stop doing the things we love and traveling the world out of fear. The truth is that these types of things can happen anywhere at any time. You are more likely to end up in a car accident, but most of us don’t stop using cars. We should not let fear keep us from experiencing life because then you are not even living your life. That is the lesson I share with my teenage daughter.


I also took the opportunity to talk to her about why it is so important to get out of your comfort zone, try new things, and let yourself soak up all that life in this world has to offer. Be a light to others in a world filled with hate and evil. You never know how much time you will get. It could be twenty years or one hundred twenty years. So, it’s important not to waste time and energy on the things that don’t matter. And it is important to do and say the things that do matter. Don’t put off something that you really want to do and say “I’ll do it next year” because you may never get to do it. Make your bucket list and start checking things off your list this year. In other words, carpe diem.

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