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November 23, 2015

How To Talk To Your Kids About Terrorism (‘The Incredibles’ Approach)

Written by Dr. John Carosso

Did you see that movie?

The Incredibles is a great flick; probably one of the best animated movies. This family starts out as this dysfunctional unit who can’t communicate, are at-odds with one another, feeling no confidence or competence, but end-up coming together as a fighting force ready to take on the world and then some.

What do the Incredibles have to do with your family, or talking to your kids about terrorism, you ask? Well, more than you might think. There are two sides to this talk, and the Incredibles can teach us a lot about the one side.

Probability: The other side of the coin

Okay, so one side is being like the Incredibles (we’ll talk about that later), the other side is “probability”. In that respect, when talking to kids about terrorism, or the many dangers inherent in our world (robbers, hurricanes, tornados…), we tend to start with a few basic facts:

  • Yes, the world is a dangerous place
  • Yes, there are very bad and evil people in the world who want to do us harm
  • Yes, there are any number of natural disasters that could come our way
  • Yes, we need to be prepared, and protect ourselves

However, we offer realistic assurances:

  • The chance (or probability) is very small that any specific bad event will happen to any of us. Is it possible, yes, but is it likely, no.
  • As a family, we are prepared and you can rest assured that you are well-protected by your parent(s). You can then describe the many things you’ve put in place to help keep your family safe including an alarm, you live in a safe neighborhood, have never had an incident before, never had a terrorist attack and likely never will, you have Cujo for a family pet, supportive neighbors, a good and responsive police force….

In this way, we soothe ourselves, and our kids, regarding any potential angst; by reminding ourselves, and our kids that terrorism or bad things can happen anywhere and anytime, but likely will not. Otherwise, we’d cower all day under our beds.

So, tell me more about what the Incredibles have to do with this talk?

The movie ends with the family being completely in-tune with each other, working together in a coordinated fashion, each having and being able to use specific talents and skills, and feeling super confident to face just about anything that may come their way both individually and together. Okay, I know, they’re fictional characters but, nonetheless, their attitude and preparedness may be worth emulating.

How to be confident like the Incredibles?

First, you get busy getting prepared like they did. You make sure you are able to rattle off that list to your kids of why they can feel ‘safer’ in a dangerous world. The longer that list, the better for you and your family.   As far as the Incredibles-mentality, preparedness would also include a self-defense/safety class and learning how to protect yourself, teaching situational awareness, practicing a safety plan, and having a stock of survival supplies. I don’t want to come across as an alarmist, and you would not convey that sentiment to your children, but you would convey, to your kids, that you’re all prepared for whatever may come your way so no need to fret. In fact, you could even toss-in some bravado (kids love bravado) such as ‘bring it on’ and that any robber or terrorist is picking the wrong family if they pick yours, Hoorah!

Your ‘tone’ matters a lot

Keep in mind that kids mirror the tone of their parents. If Mom and Dad are showing themselves to be calm, secure, confident, and in-control of the situation, then kids will stay far calmer and secure as well. .

He's got the whole world in His hands...

It’s also super reassuring to emphasize to your kids that, no matter how chaotic the world may appear, God has everything under control, that He looks after his children, and comforts and holds our hand through every adversity.  You know the verse, If God is for us, who can be against us..., Romans, 8:31.

The Incredibles and Beyond

I hear they’re coming-out with an Incredibles II, which should be fun to watch. You can bet that this dynamo family will again meet-up with some super-power nemesis, will falter at times, and will appear all but defeated but, in the end, they’ll work together to out-muscle and out-smart the would-be ‘terrorist’.  You can also bet that ‘Dash’ and ‘Violet’ (oh, c’mon, you remember the two Incredibles’ kids) will be far more confident in this second go-around and won’t be fretting like they did in the first movie. Do you want the same for your kids? Yea, me too.  So, lets get busy, Hoorah.

Your ideas?

I'd love to hear about your approaches and experiences when talking with your children about weighty topics such as terrorism. Feel free to email me at

P.S.: Check-out my earlier post "Treating Anxiety and Obsessions" by clicking here that provides even more details about alleviating childhood anxiety and fears.

P.P.S.: For those unfamiliar with the term, "Hoorah" is a military term used to emphasize exuberant acknowledgement, agreement, and being onboard with the mission.


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