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Talking with Kids about the Boston Marathon Tragedy

April 15, 2013

It really wasn’t that long ago that I was blogging about how to help your children through one of nation’s most terrifying experiences, the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. How is it possible that we are faced with the dilemma of tackling this subject all over again?

The specifics are somewhat different. The Sandy Hook shooting was particularly scary to children since the tragedy happened in a school. But the bottom line is that any time a random act of violence occurs in our nation, the impact is felt throughout.

How do we handle this with our children?

  • Consider your young child’s need to know. My son is seven. Does he need to know about the death and injuries at the Boston Marathon today? Not really.
  • Regardless of if your child does or does not know, turn off the television! The continuous news coverage isn’t healthy for adults, let alone children. The images are graphic and terrifying.
  • Watch your child’s exposure from the internet, including Facebook, blogs, and the news. Be particularly aware of graphic images that pop up or a video that may automatically start playing when a website first loads. The sounds coming from those news clips are pretty horrifying.
  • If your child does know – or you think it’s important for your child to know (maybe you know someone who ran the marathon, you have family in Boston, you are an avid marathon runner yourself) share the facts in simple language.
    • Today two explosions went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. We do not know why there were explosions but the police are investigating it.
  • Stay attuned to your child so you can understand what they are really asking.
  • Provide reassurance. My son accompanies my husband to race finish lines when I run the occasional race. If he knew about the explosions today in Boston, I would reassure him that it is safe for me to race and safe for him to watch.
  • Talk about the good we saw in humanity today. I know one of the first things I noticed when I watched a clip (I watched only one) were all the people who ran TOWARD the explosion in an attempt to help complete strangers. How about all the runners to went to donate blood? Bad things happen. Humans are generally good.
  • Remember that even if your child wasn’t there, experiencing the news about the event can still be traumatic. This can be especially true if you knew someone running or had a direct connection to the race. If your child is having a difficult time processing the explosions at the Boston Marathon, you can view my recent video series on how to help your child develop a story or narrative for traumatic or hard moments.
  • As the weeks go by and you find yourself wondering if your child is having a difficult time processing the trauma from the Boston Marathon, reference my article that I wrote after the Sandy Hook shooting about how to recognize the impact of trauma in a child.

To everyone in Boston, to everyone who runs…I send peace.


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Robyn Gobbel, LCSW is a child and family therapist in Austin, Texas specializing in adoption, trauma, and attachment counseling. She is the founder of the Central Texas Attachment & Trauma Center.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2013 7:26 pm

    Help tips no matter the traumatic event.

  2. April 23, 2013 11:29 am

    Helpful tips!

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