All of us are touched by the terrible events at this year’s Boston Marathon.
As the increasingly complex story unfolds, images of carnage fill television screens and front pages. These images and information are meant to inform adults, but I worry about how these images may be affecting children.
After 9/11, experts found that young children, when seeing replays of events, may think every iteration is a new event; many kids thought hundreds of planes had hit hundreds of buildings.
A report in the Journal Watch (Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine) gives some advice for parents to help children cope with these events:
1. Limit the amount of news violence children watch.
2. Sit with children when they are watching the news and talk about what you are seeing.
3. For young children, a helpful statement might be: "Many people are working hard to make sure this doesn't happen again. We will always make our home a safe place."
4. Encourage older children to talk about what they experience when they watch violence on the news. Talking about fears in a safe environment when a trusted person is listening is often therapeutic. Do not attempt to provide definitive answers to all their questions.
5. Listen. Give all children the space to express themselves with words and emotions. A quiet moment allows them to consolidate their feelings and respond (verbally and non-verbally) with greater clarity.
6. Appreciate the relationship of trust with your children- it can promote a dialogue and a sense of safety when it is needed the most.
My twins are adults now; in fact, they graduated from college in Boston just last year. But this is advice I would certainly follow if they were still children.