Just 24 hours ago, two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and injuring some 170 more. There’s a good chance you, like me, are having trouble thinking about much else today. There’s also a good chance you’ll need to address this horrifying event—which has been documented through vivid and often gruesome images—with your students.
Gene Beresin, a child psychiatrist and director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Mental Health and Media, wrote a helpful piece on how to discuss what happened in Boston with kids on the WBUR blog CommonHealth. For school-age kids, he says, be prepared for them to ask the same questions again and again. “Be patient,” he writes. “Remember that by asking the questions, they’re telling you that they trust you.” It’s also important to “let younger children know that even though they’ve seen TV images of explosions dozens of times over many days, they each happened only once and on one day,” he explains. “The Marathon was only run once and it is over.”
In addition, he writes: “Remind your children that there are many, many more good people in the world than there are bad people, and that the good people will try to take care of them and protect them.”
As for teenagers, Beresin says, sometimes they find it easier “to talk about disturbing things if they don’t have to look you in the face. That’s why some of the best discussions take place while you’re doing something else, such as playing a game ... .” And finally, he says, make sure to “share your feelings with them. This gives adolescents permission to do the same with you.”
There are more such advice columns. On Boston.com, a mother and pediatrician whose daughter was in the vicinity of the bombs yesterday (and is thankfully OK) also gives her recommendations for what parents should say and do. KRMG of Tulsa provides some quick tips from Family and Children’s Services. And the National Association of School Psychologists and the American School Counseling Association both offer more general tips on how to help kids deal with violence.
You may remember the same such tip sheets being passed around just after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. How sad that we’ve come to need them so often. Please use the comments section below to offer your own advice, reactions, and resources.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.