Talking to your kids about the Boston Marathon Bombings

Yesterday, while vacationing in Florida with my family I returned to our townhouse — after a day of visiting a manatee center, playing in the surf and lounging poolside with a celebrity gossip magazine — to a text from my mom: “Bomb at Boston Marathon and JFK Library 2 dead 49 injured so far.” Before I could catch my breath, my 13-year-old ran from his bedroom, “There was a bombing at the Boston Marathon,” he cried. He had also checked his texts and a friend had informed him of the tragedy.

I felt like in that one moment Sandy Hook, 9/11, Columbine, Oklahoma City and all the other tragic events I had been witness to in my lifetime came flooding back in those few seconds along with the emotions went with them. I was stunned, a sick to my stomach and tears threatened to escape the corners of my eyes.

Our family watched a little of the news coverage, we texted friends who were headed to the marathon to make sure they were safe and then I took away access to the Internet and kept everyone close for the rest of the evening. We had a family dinner and watched a movie, and when it was over we checked the Internet and texts for updates. Another death and a report that “a friend of a friend” had left one of the restaurants that “was bombed” just minutes before the bombs went off.

The next thing I knew, there was a very emotional  and overwhelmed 11-year-old  in my bed — my always sensitive youngest child. He was filled with questions: Is TT OK? His aunt who lives an hour north of Boston. Were any more of our friends in Boston and possibly injured? We heard from those we knew about and they were safe, I had no other answers. To compound that, questions of safety, our trip to Boston in June and our impending trip home on an airplane were of great concern to him. I did the best I could in allaying his fears, using tips I had learned “in my former life” as a psychotherapist, things I had read after Sandy Hook and I browsed the Internet for some Boston specific information.

One of the top articles I found on commonhealth.wbur.org had this to say:

“Children need to have answers to three fundamental questions:

Am I safe?
Are you, the people who take care of me, safe?
How will these events affect my daily life?

It’s important to provide answers to these questions, even if your children don’t put them into words. You should expect to answer these questions several times over the next few days and perhaps longer. Keeping as normal a schedule as possible will help reassure your children as well.”

So this is what I did. I told my son he was safe and so were we at our little beach resort in Florida. I reminded him of everything the schools and the nation had done to ensure everyone’s safety after Sandy Hook earlier this year.  I relayed to him that I had heard on the news that Boston would be beefing up security — doing searches on buses and T stations  and busy sections of the city — to make sure the city and the people in it were safe. I told him there would probably be increased security at the airport when we flew home in a few days to ensure that we were all safe. And I told him we were still on vacation and going to see friends tomorrow, and although we would probably still be a little sad and scared, we would still have a good time.

He wiped his tears and got up to go bed, but not before giving me a big hug and asking once more, “Are you sure everyone we know is safe and OK right now?”

To help you talk to your kids I’ve once again provided links to sites recommended by area School Adjustment Counselors after the Sandy Hook Shootings, as well as some Boston bombing specific links.

How To Talk With Children About Boston Marathon Bombs” by Gene Beresin, M.D.

Boston Marathon bombings: How to talk to your kids about tragedy

“Helping Children Cope With Tragedy” Report to Parents

Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly Bevan McIlquham was born and raised in the Berkshires and pours her passion for children, family and the region into this site. She lives in Hinsdale with her husband Mark, three children —Kenna, Max and Shea — and her two dogs Murphy and Titan. She is the founder of Berkshire Family Focus and Renaissance Mom. Contact her at kelly@berkshirefamilyfocus.com.
Kelly Bevan McIlquham

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