“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Europe and many other parts of the world are shocked by the terror attacks last Friday, taking the lives of innocents in the name of extremist insanity. Our hearts are broken, like everybody else’s, and we also feel responsible for supporting our children in coping with the situation. We, parents are responsible for the safety, but also for the comfort and happiness of our children, and we are all aware that you cannot live a happy life being afraid. Thus we have to do our best to be vigilant, but at the same time provide our children circumstances that offer the possibility of a happy childhood, also ease their anxiety caused by the events rather than increasing it.
It is difficult, but not impossible to offer reassurance to our children, but for that we have to decrease our own stress levels. We have to try hard and not let anybody prevent us from living the free life the Europe we want has offered. I may not be the only one who has strange, creepy feelings seeing armed soldiers marching among pedestrians. This is something that will never make me feel secure. The ancient experience that if there is a weapon on stage, it will eventually be shot, does not leave me easily.
At the same time we also have to be aware that there are people who actually want to pull the trigger, and shoot at the lifestyle we like and are ready to fight for, and may also be ready to shoot at people we know and love. We should never forget that people deprived of their basic rights, like the right to mother tongue or freedom of religion at school are more open to fanatics and extremism. We have to be open to cultural differences, to support integration and multiculturalism. This still seems to be the best way to protect our Europe and it is the only way to protect our European values.
We have experienced an inflation of education and devaluation of democracy as Europe exercises it. It has been less attractive for young people all over Europe, making room for extremist ideas, right and left alike. Far left, far right, religious extremism are very similar: they offer simple answers to questions that are very complex to answer. It is our duty as parents and educators to teach our children that there are no simple answers.
We also have to teach them that they are responsible for their decisions from choosing the flavour of their ice cream to voting at EU elections. It is an important task of parents as educators to create an open, democratic atmosphere at home, giving children responsibilities and making them meaningfully participate in decisions concerning their own lives. Some people will be surprised to see how competent children are if they are offered our trust and love.
We also have to be role models. It is important to take them with us when going to the polls, but our day-to-day example as open, inclusive active citizens, being aware of issues concerning our own lives as well as theirs, being open to meaningful debate, understanding the importance of giving to your local communities and embracing differences, is the only tool we have to really raise them to become the future of Europe as we like it.
Responsible parents should always act for the best interest of their children, even in difficult times, and not forget that you have to let them go to let them grow.
European Parents' Association