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How to talk about the Boston Marathon with your children


It was a tragic, horrific and evil incident that occurred at the Boston Marathon. Thousands of innocent people were caught off guard as bombs were set off killing 3 and injuring over a hundred. As there is a lot of news coverage and talk about this awful event it is important to know how to talk to your child about it. Here are some tips:

1) Stay calm: Children pick up stress and anxiety from their parents. It is important that as a parent stay calm when discussing the incident because you are their sense of security. It is important that the sense of security they get from you is not weakened. Children need reassurance that incidents like this are rare and isolated and often very far away from them. The odds are that this would never happen to them or anyone they know. Never the less, we still want to instill a sense of compassion for those unfortunate people involved in this incident. The trick is to give them the information and have them feel empathy for the victims while not scary them and creating fear. It is really about how you present the information to them.

2) Keep it age appropriate: How you explain this to a 7 year old will sound different than discussing it with a 14 year old. The younger the child is the more simplified your explanation should be. Younger children think in black and white and are less likely to understand nuances and complex situations like these.

3) Follow their lead: If your child starts to ask questions or as you explain the situation they make comments, reflect their thoughts and statements back to them. It allows them to direct the conversation so you as a parent can get to what they are really thinking or concerned about. You are then able to answer their questions and ease concerns and fears. It helps to clarify their thinking about the event and situation and increases the emotional bond which reduces anxiety and stress.

4) Ask questions: After you follow their lead ask questions about how they feel and what they understand. Do not make any assumptions. Many times children use twisted logic. Correct any misconceptions and offer reassurance. Some questions that are helpful are: What did you hear? What did you see? What do you think? How does it make you feel?

5) Use it as a teaching moment: If your family does not already have a safety plan in place of what to do if something bad happens this is a great time to make one with your child. Having a concrete safety plans with specific steps and a plan of action eases anxiety and allows the child to feel safe and in control.

Courtney Harkins from OC Family Solutions – Courtney is a local Marriage and Family Therapist, master in the kitchen and mom to three young children.

Photo cannot be used without permission ©altanaka with Fotolia

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