School for Children

Responding to Boston

Posted by Alexis Wright on April 18, 2013

As educators, we have had to write a variation of this letter too many times to our school families. This school year alone, we experienced Hurricane Sandy, then the tragedy in Newtown, and now the deadly bombings in Boston that claimed three lives, including that of an 8 year old boy.

Given that our children are growing up in a world where they are more and more aware of times of disaster and tragedy, only our very youngest children are now out of earshot of the news. As a result, here are several strategies that may help you talk to your children about what happened in Boston, or whenever other heartbreaking, tragic and senseless events occur.

  • Increase parent availability. Young children may be anxious and fearful if they learn about this situation, and they may need emotional support. Be present for your child.

  • Listen to what your child is saying and respond to questions honestly, but do not provide more details than necessary. Acknowledge your own feelings, but also provide reassurance. Remind them that incidents like these are extremely rare.

  • Reduce access to media. Parents should be the ones to answer questions that are raised, not the nightly news. Children should not be exposed to the repeated images of individuals coping with a tragedy or disaster.

  • If children ask about their own safety, remind them of the ways you, your family, and their school, house of worship, and/or extended community work to keep them safe all the time.

  • Ask any older siblings/family members to be mindful of discussions that might be upsetting to younger children. Be aware that all children listen to hushed voices and may overhear conversations.

Times like this make our hearts sad and for adults, it is very easy to struggle when forced to have difficult conversations with children. However, listening, being sensitive and attuned to your child’s feelings, remembering to be developmentally appropriate with your responses, and providing reassurance can go a long way toward helping children cope with tragedies.

Alexis S. Wright, Dean
Dr. Anne Santa, School Psychologist
The Bank Street School for Children
Bank Street College of Education

 
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