NORFOLK -- In the wake of the Boston Marathon explosions that killed three people, including an 8-year-old, CHKD Parenting educator Sam Fabian has advice for parents on how to talk to their children about the situation.
Q: How do I talk to my children about the bombing?
SF: Little children, around 5 and younger, don't need to know about things like this. Do not watch TV stories about the event while children are in the room. You do not need to bring this up as a topic of conversation with small children. You can wait for children to ask you about what happened. Or you can initiate a conversation by saying, "I know you're hearing and seeing a lot about what happened in Boston. How does this make you feel?" ALSO EVEN IF YOU"RE UPSET BE SURE TO KEEP your feelings in check.
Q: My child seems so frightened that he could get hurt. How do I reassure him?
SF: Tell him, "It's normal to feel frightened. If I was your age, I'd be scared, too. But I'm older than you. I've seen lots of bad things like this happen before and lived through them. It seems frightening, doesn't it? As if you could be a victim too…I felt that way when I was your age too." Tell him that you will always do everything you can to keep him safe and that if you thought it was dangerous to go somewhere you wouldn't let him go.
Q: How do I explain the kind of people who would do something like this?
SF: I'd go back to your family history. How have you explained bad things in the past? Be consistent and age appropriate. With little kids, I'd stay away from phrases like "bad guys" because to them that can mean the bully at school, causing even more fear. I'd use terms like, "bad things happen sometimes in this world."
After age 7 or 8, children may need to have more in-depth explanations. Encourage your child to talk, and listen carefully to her so you can understand her perceptions of the event. Help her identify and label her feelings. Then address each issue in a way that reassures your child and reflects your family values.
Q: What signs should I look for that will tell me my child is having a tough time coping with this tragedy?
SF: Until things calm down, it will be normal for children to show signs of worry and fear. Just like many adults, they may have trouble eating or sleeping. Two weeks from now, if your child still isn't eating or sleeping normally, or shows other warning signs such as extreme irritability, weepiness, lethargy and reluctance toward or fear of activities she once enjoyed, call your pediatrician.