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Tips For Talking With Your Child About Boston Marathon Tragedy

The Boston Marathon explosions yesterday took the lives of 3 innocent people, injured many others, and left a nation wondering “why?” Many families feel frightened as parents wonder how to talk about this tragedy with their children. Here are some Dos and Don’ts when it comes to exposing your child to this and other potentially traumatizing news stories.

Don’t: Leave the TV or radio news channels on while your child is home.

Do: Minimize child’s exposure to the traumatic situation.

Children can experience vicarious trauma by watching or listening to tragic events on news programs over and over again. Protect children from watching first-hand footage and news stories. Young children may not be able to distinguish that this event has already happened.

Don’t: Pretend that nothing traumatic has happened.

Do: Ask your child what they know about the event.

If your child is aware that a tragic event has occurred ask your child what they know and how they feel. Share the only the basic facts surrounding the event to clear up any misconceptions they may have.

Don’t: Give graphic details about the traumatic event.

Do: Give simple explanations.

Limit the amount of detail you share with your child and make sure that the information you share is simple, straightforward, and is aimed at their developmental level.

Don’t: Minimize your child’s emotional responses to the tragedy.

Do: Acknowledge your child’s emotions and provide comfort.

Let your child share their emotional response to the event. Be cautious not to inadvertently tell your child that they shouldn’t feel their feelings by saying “Don’t feel scared.” Instead, validate your child’s feelings by acknowledging their emotions, “You feel scared.”

Don’t: Promise that nothing bad will ever happen to them.

Do: Acknowledge that bad things happen but focus on the rarity of this kind of event.

Parents often fantasize about protecting their child from all painful events and preventing bad things from happening. When tragic events occur, it is important to acknowledge that painful things do happen, but are extremely rare and very unlikely.

Don’t: Hyper focus on the tragic event.

Do: Keep your child’s routine as normal as possible.

With the compelling and constant stream of information unfolding on news and social media outlets it’s easy to become overly focused on this tragic and scary situation. However, it’s best for your child if you keep your family routine to create a sense of normalcy.

About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.

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