I was leaving my weekly trip to Target, picking up some diapers and other household essentials, the kids were fast asleep in their car seats when I got an alert from the Associated Press about the explosions at the Boston Marathon. I quickly tuned into 1010 Wins news-radio, figuring they would have the most up to date information.
As the day’s events unfolded, traditional media and social media had a hard time keeping up with the news. Confirmed reports. Unconfirmed reports. It was very hard to decipher what was true. I looked back at Nugget and Thor soundlessly napping and was glad that I wouldn’t have to explain this horror to them. Nugget’s preschool teacher won’t be bringing the subject up. Unfortunately, it’s very likely that this will not be the last act of violence that our country and children will see. So one day, my little ones will ask me to explain what’s happening….and I don’t know exactly how to explain it.
I believe I would try to provide as many hard facts gleaned from reputable sources – without confusing or scaring them with hyperbole. During this day, I spoke with other parents that recommended talking about the brave men and women who ran towards the explosion to save other people.
Opinions on how to handle speaking with kids varied by the age of their child.
“I think it’s best to shelter them from it,” said Mike a father of a 5 year-old son from Northern Virginia. “It will just make them scared to go into public places.”
My wife Ani worried that our daughter might overhear teachers or older kids at school talking about the attack. She said she will try to reassure our daughter that we are safe and gently explain that “people were hurt but the police, firemen, hospital people helped them.” To always remember that the good guys such as policemen, firemen, and EMT are there to protect them. They are the real superheros!
While parents of older children felt they needed to be more direct.
“I simplify the facts to her level of comprehension and allow her to ask as many questions as she likes,” added Christine, a mother of an eight year old daughter and an infant son.
“We tell the pumpkin the truth,” Suzanne, the mother of a 10 year old who lives just outside of Philadelphia commented. She said that it’s sad that it is becoming more commonplace to talk to her daughter about violence. But uses these teachable moments as time to talk about being compassionate and empathetic towards others.
These kinds of tragic events stick with children for a long time. Especially, children with big imaginations. One of the most vivid memories of my childhood was watching the Challenger explode. They had wheeled TVs into the classrooms so we could watch the launch. Then, “IT” happened. I don’t remember exactly how it was explained to us, but I do remember being told not to be scared, to wait for facts and to pray for the families of the people who died.
I think if we focus on reassuring our kids and letting them know that while there are some really bad people in this world, there are also so many really good people.