We all watched in horror and disbelief after learning that two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday in what is believed to be a terrorist attack. As parents struggle to process the news, it's hard to know what to say about this tragic event to our kids. iVillage talked to Russell T. Jones, Ph.D., director of the Stress and Coping Lab at Virginia Tech University, USA, who assisted students in healing after the 2007 shootings there, to find out what to say, age by age.
Shield them: Very young children don't need to be informed about disturbing events, says Dr. Jones. If possible, help kids avoid the news by turning off the TV and watching what you say to other adults in their presence.
Stress that they're safe: If kids do find out about the bombing or someone that they know was affected, keep your answers to their questions simple without revealing too many details. It's also important to reassure them: Tell them that you and other grown-ups are working to help keep them safe.
Stick to the routine: There's comfort in normalcy, so try to continue whatever your kids would usually be doing, even if it feels weird to toss a ball in the backyard when you know there are people suffering.
Be honest: Kids this age may hear about it from friends, the news or overhear an adult conversation. Instead of offering up too many details, wait for your kids ask questions or start by asking what they've heard. "Use that as a window to find out what they already know and share information from there," says Dr. Jones. Keep answers simple and straight-forward so kids don't get overwhelmed.
Emphasise the good over the bad: There's no denying it to this age group — there are bad people who do bad things. However, do your best to stress that there are even more people that help, from bystanders to first responders to law enforcement.