I woke from my rest this afternoon to the horrible news of a knife attack at London Bridge. I immediately checked in with my friends and family who could’ve been in the area, including King Russell whose work is nearby.
I’m a Londoner, this city is my home, and from as far back as I can remember, terrorism’s been something I’ve been aware of. Sadly I’m sure I’m not alone in this – one of Leftwing Idiot’s earliest memories was of being evacuated from a Mothercare with his mum because of a bomb scare, and I have a similar memory of running to keep up with my gran as we were rushed away from an eerily quiet shopping centre due to a suspect package.
As I got older some of these worries got bigger and got meshed in with the obsessive behaviours that can go hand in hand with Tourettes. If my mum was late home, I’d be beside myself with worry. I’d try to control this through obsessive activities like forcing myself to stand in one spot and telling myself that if I could do this for a set period of time she’d come home safe.
These anxious thoughts and behaviours were rooted in the very real events that I was witnessing on TV and in the world around me. As I got older I learnt to understand these worries better and found healthier ways to manage them.
As I set out to collect Bean from nursery this afternoon, I thought about the people caught up in today’s events, and their families.
I also thought about all the children and young people bearing witness to this violence through rolling news, overheard conversations, and public safety measures.
Coming back from nursery, I could see the tall buildings of London Bridge, the Shard, and Guy’s Hospital tower on the skyline. Fat Sister worked at Guy’s for a long time and it’s from their tower that we watched the fireworks on New Year’s Eve almost three years ago, back when Bean was just a bean inside her.
As we came back across the dark park, several helicopters were circling above the affected area. They clattered loudly above us. Bean’s a big fan of Paw Patrol and she noticed the helicopters overhead, but she also seemed to notice that these weren’t like the cheerful chopper piloted by her favourite Paw Patrol character, Skye.
I felt lucky to be holding Bean close to me as we rolled along. She’s too little to understand what all the helicopters and traffic-clogged roads meant, but many young Londoners will have some understanding of what’s happened today.
I know from my own experiences that these worries can impact neurodivergent children and young people in unpredictable and often unseen ways.
The NSPCC has information for talking to children about terrorism here. The main tips are:
• Listen to the child’s worries
• Allow space for them to ask questions
• Be honest
• Reassure and give comfort
All of these tips are relevant for neurodivergent children, too, but they may need support to communicate their feelings in a way that works for them. Check in with your child regularly and be patient with behaviours or concerns that might not seem rational to you.
As a child I sometimes felt as though my fears were something to be embarrassed about and at times this meant I felt as if I had to manage these worries on my own.
Our world is facing many challenges and deep divisions. I desperately want Bean to grow up in a society that is more connected, more equal and less frightening than it is currently.
The brilliant Company Three have only three rules for their young people:
Tonight, as my timeline filled with news about the day’s horrible events and the courageous actions of those who stepped in to prevent more deaths, I found myself thinking and ticcing about the world I want to be part of. Company Three’s rules had a big influence as well:
“Be kinder than the warmest towel.”
“Be braver than a candle in the dark.”
“Be yourself not a scarer of cats.”
“Courage Ate Rage For Breakfast.”
Sending Love, solidarity and wishes of safety to you all.