"What I told my daughter about the Sydney siege."

It’s the conversation every parent is having with their kids today.

Photo Getty Images

My seven-year-old daughter burst into tears yesterday afternoon. Because of the Sydney siege, her excursion to a Sydney beach, planned for today, had been cancelled.

“Why?” my daughter wailed to me. She’d been looking forward to it for a long time.

I wasn’t sure what to say to her.

I had spent the whole day with a ball of fear in my stomach. My husband was in a building that was in lockdown.

I was worried for him, but I was terrified for the people in the cafe. I kept checking the ABC website, over and over, hoping for a peaceful ending to the siege. I hadn’t mentioned anything to my daughter or my four-year-old son. But now I had to say something.

Flowers left at Martin Place. Photo Getty Images.

"Why? Well, something happened in the city today. Dad's building was in lockdown."

She understand lockdown. She'd had lockdown practice at her school.

"What happened?" she asked.

"Well, someone went into a cafe and wouldn't let anyone else go out."

"But why didn't the police just make him let the people go?"

I didn't really know how to explain that.

"But why can't I go on the excursion?" she pressed. "Our school wasn't in lockdown."

I told her that the school had made the decision. I told her that we would go to the beach in the holidays. I didn't say anything more.

I always try to answer my kids' questions honestly, but I'm careful not to go into unnecessary detail. My son, in particular, has a tendency to ask endless questions about death then start crying as the reality hits him.


Parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson told The Daily Telegraph that young children aren't likely to be interested in the siege or understand it.

"The exposure to news such as this should be kept to zero," he advised.

Older primary school kids may overhear people talking about it, and parents should be ready to answer their questions.

"Be guided by their curiosity and correct misconceptions they may have," he suggested.

Children as young as four have been laying flowers. Photo Getty Images,

For high school students, Dr Coulson believes exposure should still be kept low, but he said incidents like the siege can be become valuable teaching moments.

"Ask them how they feel and what they know."

He says if children feel anxious or fearful, parents should comfort and reassure them, and remind them that incidents like this are rare and unlikely.

"Our children thrive when they believe the world is a safe place."

Like the rest of Australia, I woke up this morning to the terrible news that two of the hostages had died in the siege. I feel sorrow for their families. I can't imagine what they must be going through.

My daughter bounded into my bedroom. She was over the minor disappointment of the excursion being cancelled. She told me a joke she had just made up. I packed her off to school.

I love this city. I love the fact that my daughter has children of so many different ethnic backgrounds in her class. And I don't want my family, especially my children, to be in constant fear. 

Have your children been asking questions about the siege?

Want more? Try:

"I want my son home..."

This mum thinks school excursions should be banned ASAP.