How do you talk to kids about terrorism?

NEW YORK -- So far, my two boys, 7-year-old George and 5-year-old Emmett, have grown up inside a protective bubble of my creation.

So far, my wife and I have shielded them from the Paris attacks -- and just about every other bit of bad news on the planet.

The goal was to keep them as carefree as possible, as long as possible. But this week I started wondering if that was the right approach. So to find out what's best for my kids, I consulted some experts: my kids.

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Steve Hartman talks with his children, George (left) and Emmett (right) CBS News

Should parents tell their kids when bad things happen in the world?

"It might be really interesting to some kids," said Emmett.

Would they want to know?

"No, not really," the boys answered together.

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George and Emmett CBS News

But sometimes, I learned, the biggest birdbrains are parents like myself who think we can just gloss over terror with a white lie: "You guys know that nothing could ever happen to you, right?"

"It could, but it's really rare," said George. "And I could never get you to understand that. Because it's really unlikely, but it still has a chance."

What do you say to that? Other than: "You're right." In the end, my kids didn't need a talk as much as I needed a listen. They told me in the future I should be more honest about world events, but only the ones that really matter.

"Like if there's a war and the United States lost the war, I'd really want to know about that," Emmett said.

And that's how we left it. We then ended the night with the book I always turn to after weeks like this one: Yertle the Turtle, Dr. Seuss's allegory about the rise and fall of Hitler.

I read it mostly for myself, as a reminder that evil may take up a page or two, but it never gets the last one.

"And the turtles, of course...all the turtles are free. As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be."

  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.