By Lori Lite
The Boston bombing sent a wave of shock, fear, and anxiety through families across the world. Children are vulnerable when faced with these types of tragedies and do not have experience coping with these extreme feelings and concerns. We all like to believe that we live in a safe world and as parents we do all that we can to protect our children. After witnessing how in a quick instant everything can change and safe places no longer seem safe, we begin to wonder how we can protect our families. When we are questioning our own safety, our fears can trickle down and add to the uncertainty our children are feeling. We watched the news coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombing and many of our children were exposed to the graphic content. Children and adults are asking fear filled questions. What happens next? Am I safe? Where might the next attack be? Who did this? So how can we as parent’s help our children understand these events and reduce any anxiety they may be experiencing?
Tips to help children cope with Boston bombing tragedy:
- Limiting exposure to media coverage is important for reducing stress in children. A constant reminder of how their world has been torn apart builds overwhelming anxiety and fear. Monitor what they are watching and encourage conversation about what they have seen. Keep in mind that young children might think that the terrorist attack is happening over and over again. Children do not realize they are witnessing the same scene.
- Listen and acknowledge. Honor your child’s feelings of fear, sadness, or worry. Provide comfort with hugs and positive words designed to help your child feel safe. Find out what children have heard from other sources including their friends. Children often share misinformation with each other. Imaginations can also take over and stories become inaccurate and embellished. Ongoing and reassuring communication is a key element in reducing stress levels.
- Age Appropriate awareness means paying attention to providing age appropriate information. A 5 year old should not be hearing or seeing the same details that a 15 year old would be exposed to. Be careful not to share adult level fears with children. A child is not your therapist, friend or emotional dumping ground.
- Restoring routine for children as soon as possible restores a feeling of predictability and safety to children. Try to maintain family mealtime to provide an extra place for communication and family time.
- Focus on good people and look for the helpers. Mr. Rogers offers good advice. Somewhere deep inside each one of us human beings is a longing to know that all will be well. Our children need to hear from us adults that we will do everything we can to keep them safe and to help them grow in this world. When Fred Rogers was a boy and would see scary things on the news, his mother would say to him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” (Mr. Rogers Helping Children with Scary News)
- Pay extra attention to bedtime routine. No matter what is going on in the world, children deserve to fall asleep peacefully. Read a happy story, listen to a relaxation CD, or explore soothing music. Indigo Dreams CD series offers stories with relaxation techniques and music designed for children, teens, and adults.
- Be a healthy example. Dr. Michele Borba shares some empowering advice. Studies show that children’s worries can be reduced if they learn habits that help them reduce anxieties – such as sharing worries, normalizing expectations, practice relaxation, and others — that he can use the rest of his life. It’s up to us to teach our kids coping strategies so they can use them to help them deal with whatever troubling event they encounter. Provide calm support. Our kids copy how we cope with our fears. So be the example of how to handle your own worries that you want your child to copy. Also, keep yourself strong. Fears are caught by children or passed down. Keep your worries or pessimism in check especially during a tragedy or after a trauma. (Michele Borba’s 10 Tools to Help Kids Manage Fear)
Stress Free Kids founder Lori Lite is a freelance blogger, social media strategist, parenting expert, and successful entrepreneur. Her line of books and CDs are designed to help children, teens, and adults decrease stress, anxiety, and anger. Ms. Lite’s books, CDs, and lesson plans are considered a resource for parents, psychologists, therapists, child life specialists, teachers, doctors, and yoga instructors. Lori’s award winning books received national attention on Shark Tank and her sort after accessible tips have been featured in hundreds of publications to include: CNN Living, Real Simple Magazine, USA Today, Family Circle, Working Mother Magazine, and Web MD. For more information visit Stress Free Kids and for daily advice follow Lori on Twitter and Facebook.