When Bad Things Happen

In the wake of the tragic bombings at Monday’s Boston Marathon, parents should be prepared to talk about the events with their kids. This is especially true if your kids, like mine, prefer to have the television on ESPN rather than Cartoon Network.

Parents may feel that one of our jobs is to shield our kids from everything bad in the world, but in this world of instant media, that job has become next to impossible. Below are some suggestions to keep in mind when talking with kids about tragedies.

UPDATE, 4/17/2013

There has not been a shortage or articles and blog entries (like this one) with advice for parents about talking about Boston. A Twitter search for “talk to your kids Boston” will net several dozen results. The suggestions I’ve provided below are some that I feel are best for my kids. Parents with questions should look over a few of these articles and decide what methods and strategies will work best for their families.

1) Be their first contact

I dropped the ball on this one Monday. When my kids came home from school, I very skillfully guided then away from the TV, knowing that it would eventually land on SportsCenter. By the time they had completed homework, a viewing of Shrek, dinner, and some time outside, it was time for bed, and I had successfully shielded them from the news out of Boston.

What I failed to take into account was all the details they would be getting from their classmates the following day. By allowing my shielding instincts to take over, the first source of information about Monday’s events would be any number of second-graders, who would likely be scared, confused, or possibly indifferent on the matter. Thank goodness for my wife. She was there to talk with them about it, and let them know everything their little minds needed to hear.

2) Acknowledge their feelings

Whether rational to parents or not, it is natural for children to be afraid when the see the kinds of things that happen in the world. As we discuss these things, we need to understand and acknowledge what they are feeling by asking questions and listening. Be specific. Ask what they are feeling and why. Even hundreds of miles away from Boston, children will easily internalize the events and fear for their safety. Vocalizing their fears to a sympathetic ear will help them feel safe.

3) Be reassuring

Thankfully, kids are resilient beings. In most cases, a hug and words of comfort and reassurance are all that is needed to bring the emotions they may be feeling back to normal. Our kids depend on us for safety. While these are things that we should do all the time, we should make a special effort to do so when our kids are feeling vulnerable as the result of bad news in the media. Make an effort to drop less important things to spend extra time showing them how much they are loved and cared for, and feelings of safety will follow.

4) Find the good

I believe that within every action that shows the depravity of humanity, if we look hard enough, we find people who will show us the rightness. On Monday, we heard stories of runners who assisted in the middle of the chaos. We heard about teachers in Newton, Connecticut  who lost their lives protecting children. If you’ve never heard the story of the man in the red bandana from the 9/11 attacks, please watch. You can also talk to them about donating to relief organizations.

UPDATE, 4/17/2013

Often, athletes and sports organizations are portrayed as selfish, arrogant, greedy, etc. and deservedly so in most cases. Take a look at some of these uplifting stories, all from the sports world, that show how even traditionally “hated” rivals have put competition on hold in support of Boston.

Do you have other suggestions for navigating through bad news? Comment below, or find Game7Dads on Facebook and Twitter.

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