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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Helping Kids Cope with Terrorism

View of Boston Skyline from Cambridge
Upon returning from a peaceful kayaking trip along the Charles River yesterday, I learned the news of the Boston Marathon bombings.  Of course I was glued to the coverage, which at the time, was a recounting of events:  "There were two explosions which resulted in horrific injuries." "Two dead, twenty injured" "People being treated in the Marathon Medical Tent." The television stayed on for hours and I fired up Twitter, as I tried to make sense of what happened. 

Being on Spring break my mind did not immediately go to that of my students...until this morning.  Several of the victims of this tragedy were children with an 8 year old boy losing his life! NOW, I'm thinking of my kiddos!  How do you explain this to them?  This is not a natural event that they can easily be 'reassured'.  This is something that robs children of their sense of security.

I watched this video taken by a news reporter's wife who was in the Grand Stand at the finish line.  What struck home for me was listening to the frightened cries of the children in the background; of the adults in the confusion hollering to 'stay together'.  Tears rolling down my cheeks, I think of my 10 year old students who might possibly have been in the crowd watching the 117th Boston Marathon and being a part of this terrifying experience.
View from Lennox Hotel (circa 2009 License: cc-by-sa/3.0)

What solace could I have given my fourth graders had we been in school today?  What can be said or done to reassure children of their safety? offers the following advice for children regarding Terrorism:
  • Take a break from the TV (Adults - this might mean limiting your exposure until the kids are asleep)
  • Talk about your feelings - (Adults - asking if kids have any questions or concerns may help the process - reassuring their feelings are normal helps the kids make sense)
  • Help out & be with others - (Adults - involving students in making cards for others in the hospital or helping out neighbors, takes their mind of the tragedy while doing something good which may make them feel better.)
NYU Child Study Center: Advice from Robin F. Goodman, PhD. Talking to Kids About Terrorists offers information to parents: 
  • Don't dismiss your child's fears. Find positive ways to reassure
  • Take things one step at a time especially if you know someone involved in the tragedy.
  • Avoid making generalizations. Find out what your child knows or wants to know.
  • Fears don't go away after one discussion - it might be on going. 
United States Department of Veteran Affairs offers this information: Terrorist Attacks & Children: Information for Caregivers:
  • Create a safe environment. Stick to routines
  • Be honest about what happened. Provide true information.
  • Tell the child what the police; government agencies & others are doing to help.
  • Put the event in perspective to reassure that it is a rare occurrence. 
Parents:  Are you ready for the unexpected?  Do you have a plan in the event you and your family are caught in such a tragedy as this or in a natural disaster?  Take a look at this site from FEMA to learn facts; make a plan and build a kit to be prepared.  

Other Resources:
National Association of School Psychologist: A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope

PBS Parents: Talking with Children About News

Common Sense Media: Explaining the News to Our Kids (arranged by age)

If you have other ideas to share that wold be helpful, please leave them in the comment section.  

My thoughts and prayers go out to those injured and affected by this tragedy.  A heartfelt thanks to those first responders; police, emt/paramedics, firefighters and BAA personnel who quickly sprung into action.