My heart sank as I heard the news of the bombing at the Boston Marathon today. I kept repeating in my head, "No, no, no!" It is so difficult for adults to wrap their brain around it. It's even more difficult for kids.
The information below may be of help to young children who may hear of the bombing on the news, on the radio, from peers or elsewhere. (For kids who may have directly witnessed the bombing, it would be prudent to see if the child would benefit from professional support. A therapist trained in trauma reactions in children can make a big difference.)
Here are some general tips when talking to young children about the tragedy:
1. Don't Assume the Child Knows Nothing
Although you may not have told the child about the tragedy, he may have overheard adult conversations or TV News Bulletins. He may also hear the news from other children at school or daycare.
What do you know? What did you hear? Listen for the child to make mention of the bombing and gently probe to learn what they know.
3. Be Honest
Share that a bad thing did happen, but that it is being taken care of. "The police are working really hard to solve this and to make sure the person who did this cannot do it again." We do not need to share all of the details with young children.
4. Focus on the Positives
Focus on the "helper" people. When bad things happen, helper people come to help. Police and ambulance workers were there to help the people they could.
5. Let Them Know They are Safe
Young children may think that their own personal safety is at risk. Let them know that they are safe and that things will remain the same in your community and household. Acknowledge that it is a scary thing that happened, but that it is over. What happened in Boston almost never, ever, ever happens.
6. Limit Media Exposure
With cable and satellite TV, news outlets are available 24/7. Be careful to ensure that your child is not exposed to ongoing stories about the bombing. Young children may believe the bombing is happening over and over again, or that it is still going on. Best to find the news you are looking for after they are in bed, or on your computer or mobile device.
7. Give Plenty of Hugs
Children always need physical affection, but they may need even more during times of stress or anxiety.
All of us at Kidlutions are sending prayers and healing vibes to Boston and all who were affected by this senseless tragedy.
Thank you for caring for the youngest among us~