Boston Marathon Explosions: Be In Control of What Your Child Will Hear and See

Mother Soothing Young ChildThe news of the explosions at the Boston Marathon once again necessitates that parents take control of what their kids will hear and see. Here are a few key points to keep in mind.

Be aware that coverage (TV and online) of these explosions – and the coverage will be continuous and extensive – will have some graphic footage. There are recordings of when the explosions happened. There are images of injured people on stretchers. You will see the aftermath which can be disturbing.  It will be on TV. It will be online. Keep this in mind in terms of what your kids will see. Kids of any age will find this disturbing. It’s a good idea to monitor your kids now so you can be in control of what they see – and be on the ready to switch off quickly if there are things they shouldn’t see.

In addition to footage, remember that interviews will contain graphic talk. People will be describing what they saw and heard. Many will be distressed. The talk may be graphic and reference fatalities. Online, you will read quotes by witnesses. Again, you might want to actively screen this information.

While shielding your kids from footage and conversation that is upsetting, it’s also important that you be the source of information for them. You can explain things in the best way possible without deviating from being honest. Keep your descriptions short and factual (“Yes something bad happened. Some people were hurt.”) without going into much expansion. Allow your kids to ask you questions and answer exactly what they are asking. For example, if they ask if anyone died, you can simply answer “Yes” and see if they ask anything else. Try to be calm and in control even though these catastrophes rattle all of us. Even though we can’t assure our kids that we can keep them safe every second of the day, we do want them to feel safe with us and have some sense of control.

Finally, be aware that your kids may have questions for awhile, as this tragedy will undoubtedly be in the news for some time. Keep the lines of communication open and be ready to have frequent and short conversations about it – kids may have a question here or there and they are only looking for an immediate answer to it. You can rely on your knowledge about your kid’s personality, but do bear in mind that kids typically don’t want the level of detail that we adults would pursue.

And of course do what you do best – hug your kids. That will speak volumes.

Discussing Tragedies

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  1. by Anne

    On April 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I was looking online of the footage of the horrible event that took place so my 4 year old could watch her cartoons and keep on her “normal” routine. While I was looking at the footage on msn, she heard something they said and asked some questions. My basic answer to her that some people got hurt today in Boston during a race. She was fine with this answer. If she asks more questions, I will handle them appropriately. I want her to learn about the world around her but first most I want her to have a childhood.

  2. by Andre

    On April 15, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    This was real sad what happen in boston I put up a blog with local hospital and emergency numbers in boston including the red cross

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  4. by Will

    On April 16, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    While i understand the need to preserve the innocence of youth, i disagree with completely shielding a child from the reality of this tragic event. Words can be chosen carefully, yes, but i treat my son with the same honesty my father treated me with.
    Death is real, as are the terrible people that planted these bombs. When i was young and these things would happen, my parents kept the gory details out of it but made sure i knew what really happened.
    The world is dangerous. And the more we prepare our children for it the better off they’ll be.

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  9. by Candi

    On April 17, 2013 at 10:35 am

    A grandparent dies. An uncle or aunt is a victim of violent crime. A major natural disaster levels the community where a cousin lives. How do you tell your young children about these tragedies? How detailed should you be in your explanation of the tragic event? How can you help your kids understand and cope?

    1. Inform your kids as soon after the tragedy as is practical. You don’t want your kids to hear about the tragedy from a classmate or other third party.
    2. Select a private, quiet, familiar setting in which to speak with your kids about the tragedy. Your home is a good place to hold this discussion. You won’t want the environment to be distracting; so, minimize the number of people and activities in your home as you embark on this discussion.
    3. When speaking with your kids, be as calm as possible. It’s ok to be tearful: you want your kids to understand that it’s acceptable to express grief and worry through open expressions of sadness. However, panic and trauma should not be displayed in front of your kids. If your kids see you panic or experience trauma, they will likely experience panic and trauma as well.
    4. Provide your kids with only basic information initially. Then, ask them if they have any questions. Provide them with the additional information that they seek. This question-and-answer period may take weeks or months as your kids sort through the logic and emotions of the tragedy. By allowing the “Q&A” approach, your kids will not be given more information than they think they need. Be aware, however, that your kids may seek information because they think they need to know, but they may still struggle with the information once it’s received.
    5. If your kids ask you a question to which you do not know the answer, it’s ok to say that you don’t know. If practical, you can promise to research the question and get an answer for them within a period of time that you specify (”That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer, but I-or we-can check with the public library this weekend. Ok?”) However, some answers are harder to ascertain. For example, if your kids ask you why bad things happen to good people, the answer may not be clear cut even with reasonable research into the matter. You can tell your kids that no one knows the answer with certainty, but your perspective is _______.
    6. Ensure that you are especially attentive to your kids during this difficult time. Provide them with extra time to talk things over, to cuddle, and even to sit in silence together if that’s what they need.
    7. Engage in supportive behaviors for the victims, family and friends of the victims, or for causes that aid victims. For example, spend some time with the wounded aunt/uncle or volunteer for the Red Cross…

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  24. [...] amount of information their kids would be exposed to on TV and the internet given the reality of graphic footage. But there was more. We learned on the following Friday morning that one of the suspects had [...]