We were at an early dinner last night when our kids caught a glimpse of the videos taken today when the bombing happened at the Boston Marathon.
This was the first time the kids really associated themselves with targets of such senseless hate. Our children are aware of tragedies going on in the world, but I think this is the first time it really clicked as a reality for them. It was sad, but also a reminder that they are growing up and it was time to talk more in-depth about fear, violence, and hate crimes.
1. Respect the victims:
Imagine it was your loved one who was wounded or had perished. How would you want strangers to address the conversation? Keep this in mind when speaking to your children about what happened. Your empathetic tone will not be lost to the little ears listening. It is a great reminder that while this may not have happened to someone we personally know and love, we are part of a bigger community that has just experienced a major loss.
2. Do not promote fear:
Terrorism is not about death, it is about fear. When something horrible happens, we need to remind children that the world is not a scary place to live. Especially with young children, it is our job as parents to let them know we are making sure the environment around them is secure.
3. Give a world view:
It is tempting in these situations to give an ethnocentric perspective because it happened at home. Explain to children, who are old enough to understand, that while we may relate more to something that happens to people who share country, language, nationality (etc) with us, this is happening all over the world every day and goes unreported. Again, fear mongering is not the goal, so use appropriate language to explain that there is a major problem in the world, your children are living in extremely safe circumstances, but there are people in this world without that protection. This does not make any victim in the world more or less important, or any tragedy more or less important. However, it is something to be conscious of as a human being.
4. Let your children talk:
Allow your children to give feedback and just talk about what they have witnessed. Do not try to lead the conversation with young children into a more enlightened place, if you feel their comments or questions are irrelevant. Regardless of age, your children are more attuned to what they have watched or heard than you think. Allow this process to happen. This is a great time for them to talk and for you to be responsive so that they know they are in a safe place.
5. Turn the TV off:
The media, unfortunately, is less about reporting news and more about ratings and entertainment, even in these circumstances. The content that will be created during times of tragedy has the purpose of keeping you watching. Promoting fear is a great way to do this. Keep your children away from any kind of viewpoint that will make them personally feel unsafe.