A Conversation No Parent Should Have.

Last night, I had a conversation with my nine year old daughter which no parent should ever need to have. We talked about what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

I didn’t instigate this conversation but I didn’t shut it down either.


My daughter is performing at a large event in a capital city and Australia is on a high terrorist alert. While a terrorist attack at her performance is unlikely, it’s not impossible. In the past, our geographical isolation  has protected us from global conflicts. However, isolation can so longer save our precious country from what happens “over there”. It has already happened here more than once and a former work colleague of mine was among the hostages in the Sydney Siege this time last year. So, I know first hand that these things can happen to you or someone you love.

While this awareness could turn you into a victim, being a Scouting family,  my thoughts were for her to “Be Prepared”. That this isn’t a time to stick our heads in the sand…especially when she has concerns.

Our daughter simply asked Daddy where she could buy a suit of armor. He told her that you couldn’t buy them and that he thought they were illegal. I’m not sure if he said any more but I decided to follow up her question. Given events in Paris and, as much as I have minimized exposure to the news, I knew what she was really saying. She is afraid of a terrorist attack.

When I was her age, a notorious murderer broke out of jail and I was terrified. In my mind, he was heading straight to our place and I was locking the windows and barring the doors. My Dad reassured me, talking about the likelihood of him turning up at our place, a tactic he has often used since and is a classic approach to reducing anxiety. He also told me that he would protect me and knowing that my Dad was some kind of super hero, I believed him. Of course, he didn’t turn up and Dad retained his incredible super powers.

If we were dealing with the same kind of threat, I would give my kids much the same kind of advice. I’d also tell them that our dog, Bilbo, would fight to the death to save us. We all know that while he looks cute and fluffy, he knows how to be ferocious and would die for us.  No questions asked. He’s a dog!

Bilbo shadow Palm Beach

Our Philosophical Dog walking along beside the tide. He doesn’t like getting wet paws.

However, these terrorists aren’t operating by the old, conventional rules. These days, having a simple cup of coffee or going to a football match or a concert, can be life threatening. These terrorists are striking at the ordinary, which means that your average Jo(e) needs to be prepared.


Obviously, a writer-poet without any military training, is definitely no expert on surviving a terrorist attack. However, I read how people survived inside the Bataclan Theatre and have also had my dose of TV to add to the mix.

This was my advice:

  1. Try to stay calm and think. Keep breathing.
  2. Find the exits. If you are close to an exit, try to get out. Getting out safely is your best option.
  3. Hide. Try hiding under your seat.
  4. Pretend your dead.
  5. When you’re outside, find the Police.

I forgot to mention about listening to her teacher. We know her really well. Of course, she would look after our children like her own but under exceptional circumstances, Miss might just have to do the bolt.

Amelia's dancing shadow

My daughter exudes such joie de vivre dancing at the beach. She shouldn’t have to think about shadows!

While the chances of her being caught up in  a terrorist attack are slim, talking about what to do in an emergency is a good idea. That’s why we have things like fire drills and we just can’t assume that we will be with our child in an emergency. Or, that we won’t get separated in the chaos, like an Australian father and his 12 year old son in the Bataclan Theatre.

Indeed, the day of the Paris Attacks, we had a severe hailstorm here. I had just ducked out for a few minutes and while I was gone, the hail smashed through a section of roof. Rain was pouring in and we had to get the State Emergency Service out to put up a tarpaulin. We’ve been living in this house for 14 years and I’m pretty sure it’s the first hailstorm we’ve ever had. So, the unexpected can happen in all different shapes and sizes and a few survival skills go along way. That, in addition to book knowledge, we all need life skills. We need to know how to get through a crisis. How to save ourselves.

For my daughter, too, knowledge also means being empowered. She has some skills. She has some ideas about what to do and how to respond. So, instead of going into a panic, she can be level-headed and perhaps even help others in all sorts of emergencies.

So, I’ve now come round to thinking that this is the sort of conversation all parents need to have with their kids. Not just about terrorism but about how to respond in an emergency. Children might be young but they’re incredibly resourceful and being small can be quite an advantage. Being good at hide & seek could even save their life.

Being prepared isn’t giving in to worry. Instead of weakness, you’re actually coming from a position of strength.

If you have ever read the words of La Marseillaise, fighting the good fight is what it’s all about. We don’t lie back and let the bastards win.


Take care and and I feel we are all particularly conscious of just how precious our loved ones and our communities are and I continue to pray for some kind of resolution and a new beginning.

Family shadow Byron Lighthouse Easter 2014

Our Family 2014- Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia.

I would be interested to know your thoughts. We really do live in a new world where the old rules no longer apply. Now, the anticipated target could indeed be the exception. While this doesn’t make sense, this is our new reality.

xx Rowena


32 thoughts on “A Conversation No Parent Should Have.

  1. painkills2

    Growing up in Houston, Texas, where hurricanes are frequent, everyone learns how to be prepared for emergencies. I think you handled the situation with your daughter very well, and you’re right, there is strength in being prepared.

    I can’t help but think of how kids handled the threat of nuclear war in the past, with the drills of hiding under desks at school. People laugh about it now, but I think plenty of kids were traumatized by the fear of something like that happening. But we can’t keep kids in the dark, especially in the internet age. Better to talk about it than ignore it.

  2. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Rowena I think you did exactly the right thing. You’re daughter was obviously worried and having the conversation finish with the fact that suits of armour are no longer available would have done nothing to allay her fears. Instead they could have built to mammoth proportions. By having the conversation you have empowered her and given her some guidelines for what to do so that in the unlikely event that she gets caught up in a terrorist attack she will at least feel as though she is acting appropriately and being prepared may well save her and possibly others. Fear is usually built up in our psyche to a point where it is way out of proportion to the event. Take having an injection. I still have my childhood fear but it is never as bad having the needle as the fear I experience before it. By having our fears treated with respect and then being given tools to manage them is the only way. If she were older I would probably throw in statistics because the odds are low but she probably doesn’t want or need to know of other dangers that have perhaps a far greater chance of happening.
    It is sad indeed that we are now living in a very different world. Hope it goes well for her. The fear will lessen with each outing as she can see that nothing has happened. Cheers Irene

  3. Norah

    Great post, Rowena, and an important one. It is a sad state of affairs in which we now find ourselves, having to have conversations such as these. But it is important to have them, particularly when the issues are raised by the children. Being prepared, knowing how to respond in an emergency is very important. It’s why in year one we teach about the emergency services and learn how to call Triple 0. How many children have saved the lives of others by knowing that simple action. I think the suggestions you have made to your daughter are very sensible and ones that saved many of the people caught up in the recent tragic situations. It is better to be prepared than sorry. I hope none of us will have cause to be sorry. There has already been too much bloodshed. Look after yourselves and your little ones. Stay safe. 🙂

  4. derrickjknight

    You did very well, Rowena. Missy initiating the conversation was important. You didn’t dismiss her worries and gave sensible advice; and her concerns were reasonable. Love the leaping shadow.

  5. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Derrick. Giving her taht advice went against the grain a bit. We are so accustomed to protecting and shielding our kids but I felt a different kind of protecting was called for. I also find that being better informed helps me feel better. Our neighbour was a child in London during the Blitz and recalls a bomb of some sort landing in their street. I hope it never comes to that but it does remind me of what people have gone through in the past and survived.
    I have taken quite a lot of shadow photos. I find shadows very intriguing…alluring. Our daughter dances but will be singing for her performance as part of a mass choir.

  6. vanbytheriver

    We live in a different world, you’re so right, when ordinary events can be life threatening. You were wise to address it. I hope your children never lose the joy reflected in those lovely shadow photos. ❤️

  7. Pamela Morse

    This perspective (including the fabulous shadow selfies and portraits) shows the range of thoughts and emotions flowing at this time of heightened awareness. I love the reference to scouting and being prepared. You can’t change the waves, but you can learn to surf. I am so happy I have found you.

  8. Solveig

    I am glad that you had learned from your dad how to deal with such a situation. I hope that your daughter is reassured. It is definitely not the type of conversation one wants to have with their kids, luckily my daughter is completely oblivious to all of that, though she did sense our shock on the day after the Paris attacks.
    When I lived in the US we started practicing lock downs, training how to behave in case of a school shooting, not a cool thought to be confronted with either. I did stress a bit afterwards, just like a fire drill panics kids in the days and weeks that follow.

  9. Amalie

    Love the post!

    With the increasingly high risk of violence on university campuses, my office (one of the administrative ones on campus) recently had a training session specifically addressing active shooter situations. It culminated in a drill, and I was PETRIFIED. Even just the THREAT of the danger was enough to really get my adrenaline racing (though we all knew we were perfectly safe). I fretted about the drill for days ahead of time, but once it was over I felt much better about my own ability to respond in such a situation.

    Knowledge is indeed power, and we can’t (nor should we) keep that power from kids forever.

  10. Midwestern Plant Girl

    Great read!
    Thank goodness I don’t have children, but your advice is ageless.
    I’ve got 2 ‘Bilbos’… I’m pretty safe 😉

  11. lrconsiderer

    It sounds like you did really well to understand your daughter’s anxieties and address them. Love the pictures of her dancing on the beach. I hope her joie de vivre can continue uninterrupted.

  12. roweeee Post author

    Thanks very much, Lizzie. Isn’t that something you want for every child? Hey, I wouldn’t mind it either. Meanwhile, Bilbo is huffing and puffing at my lunch saying the even a small morsel would provide him with eternal bliss! Happy unThanksgiving today, by the way. I’m giving thanks for the air-conditioning. xx Rowena

  13. roweeee Post author

    Thank you very much, Amalie. It’s been very assuring to get feedback like yours to my post. I often feel like I’m second-guessing myself as a parent but this felt right.
    My husband works at a university in Sydney and thinking about all of this, I have wondered about the possibility of an attack at a university. My husband works in a locked bunker so he’d be unlikely but I haven’t heard him talk about any similar training.
    I since I wrote this, I read another post which was part of 1000 Voices for Compassion, which shared the story of Buddha’s early life where he was kept protected from anything bad. It reinforced my approach.

  14. roweeee Post author

    We don’t have any of that here to my knowledge. We don’t have the number of guns around but I’m sure we live in a bubble thinking it all happens “over there”. However, this threat is different. It doesn’t involve official armies and a lone wolf is a different story. At the same time, I’m not that worried that we’re not just getting on with things. Life as usual. At this time of year, we’re too busy to stop. Happy Thanksgiving. xx Rowena

  15. roweeee Post author

    Thank you very much, Pamela nand I love that line..you can’t change the waves but you can learn to surf. So encouraging! xx Rowena

  16. lrconsiderer

    Ah, in an ideal world, absolutely.

    Happy unThanksgiving 🙂 I’m thankful for the internet, and most especially for WhatsApp – I haven’t lost them all entirely… 🙂

  17. roweeee Post author

    I forget to be thankful for the Internet but it has definitely broadened our worlds, hasn’t it! I am such a different person since I started blogging and hooking up with so many thoughtful people like yourself! xx Ro

  18. Midwestern Plant Girl

    That is surely a price worth paying! Let’s just hope the drool doesn’t short out the ‘puter! Haha!

  19. Pingback: A Spectacular Performance -Weekend Coffee Share: November 29. | beyondtheflow

  20. Minuscule Moments

    Rowena I think you did the right thing our kids need to be prepared. Out here its bush fires and snakes and we talk about what to do in these emergency situations. I also have the stranger danger talk and my kids know they must be loud if someone approaches them. Like you say the odds that these things may happen are slim, but you never truly know. The thought did occur to me when we went to Taylor Swift the other night. There were over 100,000 people all in the one area attending three different events at Homebush that night. Perfect opportunity to do major damage. But it did not stop us from having a wonderful night.

  21. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Kath. Did you read the follow-up to that post where there was a suspect package on the train on the way to school spec? After writing that other post the day before, it did freak me out a bit. Here’s the link: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/a-spectacular-performance-weekend-coffee-share-november-29/
    My daughter has been retrieving things from council pick-up piles and painting them. Am touched by her creativity but paint on uniforms and a disregard for the house hamper my enthusiasm. How was Taylor Swift? A friend of mine went with her daughter. I’ll check out your blog and see what you’re up to. xx Ro

  22. Minuscule Moments

    Taylor Swift was awesome the blog has had no attention hoping to write an xmas message as my last post for the year soon. Try and catch up with posts soon. I love that your daughter is recycling that is so cool.

  23. roweeee Post author

    Good luck with catching up with the blog and the end of year post. It’s such a hot day today and I’ve put the air-con on and am vegging out inbetween taxiing the kids around. It was fun bringing our cheese and chocolate back from Wyong in 36 degree heat today. It traveled well and has gone straight to the fridge.
    I took quite a lot of photos in the chocolate shop for a post. I have to admit I’m in heaven and you’ll never find me going chocolate-free! xx Ro

  24. Pingback: What Daddy Never Told Me Started Something Big | APreachasKid

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