Children never forget where they were when they experienced their first national tragedy. I was in Kindergarten when JFK was assassinated and the memory lives on in my mind.
The tragedy in Boston has left us all stunned and wondering how we can help, even from afar. Don’t hesitate to go to links on the web for guidance and assistance, especially as this tragedy continues to unfold. I am certain we will all have many opportunities to get involved in the help and healing of our nation.
This tragedy also brings up the topic of how to talk to our young children about what they are seeing and hearing in their home, at school, on the news and with their friends. I’d like to share a few thoughts on ways to talk with, and comfort, your children during this sad moment in history.
- Limit their news exposure. Though it isn’t possible (or perhaps advisable) to shield your children completely from news about national tragedy, be mindful of the amount of television, radio, newspaper and online news they see, hear and read. Although you may want up-to-the minute coverage of the attack, children are more sensitive to disturbing news and images and the 24 hour buzz of tragedy is difficult for all of us to digest, especially our little ones.
- Focus on the heros and helpers. Already there are many examples of courage and plenty of conversation starters about the doctors who are saving lives, nurses, and bystanders who bravely put their own safety on the line to help those in need. I’m reminded of the wise words from Fred Rodgers when he said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
- Children need to know it’s safe to ask questions. The National Center for Grieving Children & Adults recommends answering the hard questions children may ask. They share, “Kids learn by asking questions. When they ask questions about a death, it’s usually a sign that they’re curious about something they don’t understand. As an adult, a couple of the most important things you can do for children is to let them know that all questions are okay to ask, and to answer questions truthfully. Be sensitive to their age and the language they use.”
- Spend time together in prayer. Use this difficult time to provide hope to your children (and to calm your own concerns) by sitting together and saying simple prayers. Research shows that having faith in a higher power brings a sense of peace to those that are suffering.
- Hugs are comforting. This is a good time to spend precious moments with our family, especially our children who will need extra attention and hugs.
- Go outside and get distracted. The world seems less gloomy when you are chasing butterflies with your kids. Instead of spending too much time in front of the news, go to a museum, schedule a play date or go buy an ice cream cone. I am not suggesting you bury your head in the sand but give your child a sense of normalcy in all of this chaos.
While these few tips are certainly not the end all of communicating with your child, it’s a positive first step.
For now, I will be keeping our blog silent as we focus our efforts on tending to our families and praying for those who fell victim to such a cowardly crime, their family, friends and the heroes of our great nation.