Guiding Young People after Terrorist Attacks. Edith W. King

  Guiding Young People after Terrorist Attacks.

Prof Edith W. King                 email:

Our dear friend and colleague Edith King writes from the USA once more about how we can help young people in this age of terrorist violence. Edith is passionate about the need to be proactive and to maintain a dialogue with the young. 

There is a pressing need at present after the recent terrorist attacks in London, Manchester, France or any country to reassure and support young people.  The daily reports in the media on mass-casualty terrorism constantly cite credible plots carried out despite the efforts of counter-terrorism authorities. “Cascade of Violence Puts Uneasy Nation Further on Edge” (Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2017). No wonder our young people are stressed and worried.  Students enrolled in public and private schools have concerned teachers and administrators who feel it is their responsibility to discuss these outrageous attacks.  For example:  Dr. Lynn Davies at the organization, Connect Futures (connect, offers educators the blog:

“How should teachers talk to their students in the event of a terrorist attack?”

But those students who do not attend daily public or private schools may not have readily available support groups during these trying times. Did you know that there is information and guidelines for students in home schools and flexi-schools, for parents, grandparents, care-givers, friends and families?  As Peter Humphreys explains:

“Critical, intellectual perspectives can only flourish within an environment of plentiful exchange of ideas with a range of people and sources…. The home-based educated and flexi-schooled have the time and space tending to immerse themselves in questioning and freethinking in the more informal settings.”   (Humphreys, P. 2017, p.47 “Neoliberal Schooling, Dehumanization and an Education” in Negotiating Neoliberalism, Rudd, T & Goodson, I.F. editors)

We know that terrorists are not a new phenomenon. They have been present in our midst for centuries.  The extremists that confront us today wherever they operate are not unique. They spread fear, distrust, racism and hatred that disrupts social groups and alienates family members.  It is widely acknowledged that current acts of terrorism are not condoned by Islam or the Muslim religion.  The Associated Press reported in June, 2017 that since the wave of Islamic State-inspired terror attacks in Britain, there has been a fivefold increase of hate crimes against Muslims.  Terrorists use suicide attacks that spurn their own demise.  This “war on terrorism” brings attention to the various causes that use violence for the means to gain power.  But those of us educating young people should stress an appreciation of difference and a desire for peaceful existence.  The following ideas can be used for students of all ages.

Guiding Young People in Times of Stress

For those adults interacting with older learners or younger students in informal settings, here are some recommendations to remember.  You can support students by first thinking critically   yourself about these acts of destruction and extremism.  Then help learners to find the words to express their understanding of the violence.   Providing a climate of acceptance and openness for talking about recent terrorist events still fresh in the news and in mind is essential.  It is important to set guidelines for these small group discussions such as allowing each participant to fully make remarks.  Stressing confidentiality of the discussion and the assurance that the conversation stays within in group is vital.  Listen to young people, as they may struggle to express their fears and what is troubling them. Then try to understand their point of view.  It can be helpful and reassuring to re-phrase or re-state what have been said.  You can also watch for nonverbal messages as well, such as facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice or emotional signals, and indicate that for everyone extremism is taking a toll.  It is important to correct misinformation about the reporting and the conditions surrounding these extremist attacks — the use of vehicles to run people down or hide a bomb in clothing to blow up a market full of shoppers.   Make clear that most adults are deeply concerned and apprehensive about these reoccurring forms of terrorism.

Consider exploring the ideals of democracy such as freedom of speech and actions, justice, equal opportunities for all people. Flexischoolers can be encouraged to write to their legislators about the impact of terrorist acts on the community and the hardships that can arise after such incidences. Bring in human rights through cross-cultural topics and themes including use of languages spoken by peoples around the world.  Create opportunities to discuss and use differing languages.  Investigate if languages other than English are spoken, or are being read or written in your community.  Make use of signs or notices distributed in languages other than English for these activities.   Learners can watch for resulting legislation arising from terrorism and if they do not agree protest in writing or through joining organized protests. Remember young people should have a climate of acceptance and openness so they can ask difficult-to-discuss questions about these continual violent acts.  Such efforts lead to discussions about conflict resolution techniques to resolve disagreements rather than turning to the outrageous and heinous strategies of extremists.  This type of education calls upon adults to examine their own attitudes and values in relation to extremists and the results of their crimes.  Now is a time for all those caring for young people to educate themselves on the current ideas, theories and worldviews evolving in this era of terrorist extremism.

Prof Edith W. King                 email:


Davies, Lynn.  (2017)

Davies, Lynn.  (2014) Unsafe Gods: Security, Secularism and Schooling. Trentham Books

Humphreys, Peter. (2017) “Neoliberal Schooling, Dehumanization and Education” in     Negotiating Neoliberalism.  Rudd,T and Goodson,I.F.  editors, Sense Publishers.

King, Edith. (2016) Educating Students in Times of Terrorism. Amazon: Kindle.

Wall Street Journal. “Cascade of Fatal Violence Puts Uneasy Nation Further on Edge” June 20, 2017.


About the author

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress | Two Thirds Design