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Boston Marathon bombings: How to talk to your kids about tragedy

Tragic news spread quickly today of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. For parents who are still processing their own feelings about the horrific situation, it can be difficult to talk to our kids about it.

Boston Marathon bombings

The news is still developing and at this point, the motive of the Boston Marathon bombings is not known. What is known is that some people have perished and many more are injured.

Turn off the TV

Even though you want to stay up-to-date on what’s happening, you shouldn’t have your television on in front of young children. The images and video being shown on TV and on the internet are too violent and scary for kids to see. If you want to know what’s going on, you can monitor the news on your smartphone without exposing your children to the images.

Talk with your kids

When news breaks of this magnitude, it’s almost impossible to shield children from the tragedy completely. Before you dive into a conversation with your kids, find out what they know. They may have already been talking to classmates and teachers at school about what has happened.

Skip the gory details

You don’t want to lie to your kids, but you don’t need to fill them in on every last detail either. You can share the events with your children without getting into gruesome nitty-gritty. Kids don’t need to hear about exactly what happened. Talk in very general terms, especially to young children.

Let your child talk

If your kids are scared or upset, let them talk out their feelings, ask questions and safely express their fears. Hug them tight. Assure them that they are safe. They are sure to ask questions that you don’t know the answers to such as, “Why would someone do this?” Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. In times like this, we don’t have the answers. Explain that these events are very unusual and random. Talk about the first responders and how they help when violence or tragedy occurs.

Do what’s right for your family

Parents know their children best, and know how much they can handle hearing.

“My son is 6,” says Marcia, a mother from San Antonio. “He’s very intuitive and knew right away that something was wrong when I picked him up from school. I couldn’t lie. So I explained in very age-appropriate terms what had happened today. He asked a few questions and we both cried… and prayed.”

Teresa, a mother of two from Los Angeles says, “My girls are 8 and 5. They don’t know anything about what happened in Boston today, and I plan to keep it that way if I can. The innocence of childhood only lasts so long. I want to shelter them from horrific things like this for as long as possible.”

There are no easy or one-size-fits-all answers when talking to your kids about tragedy and violence. Just reassure them that they are safe and loved, and answer their questions to the best of your ability.

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More about talking to your kids

How to help kids manage their emotions
Connecticut school shootings: How to talk to your kids about violence
How talk to kids about death

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