It happened again. In the middle of recovering from Sandy Hook, we are hit with the Boston Bombers tragedy. So senseless. So upsetting. How do we process it? How do we talk with our kids about senseless violence?
As parents we worry. We used to think schools were safe for little kids – kindergartners and first graders, but after the Sandy Hook school tragedy, we are all rattled. Where can our kids be safe? At least they will be safe at an athletic event – like the Boston Marathon. What could go wrong there? But now that historic, popular and festive competition has been marred by terrorists.
Many of us are worried and scared, and our children are growing up scared. Kids need stability. I spell it S.T.A.B.I.L.I.T.Y.
Here are 9 tips to help you talk with your kids about the Boston bombings and other senseless violence and tragedies (like the factory explosion near Waco, Texas this week).
S – Share appropriate feelings with your child and encourage them to share theirs’. It’s okay to let them see you cry for the people who were killed and injured. We should cry for them. Let your children take ownership for their feelings. Don’t say, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Your rage, anxiety and revenge should be kept in check, though; because they tend to be harmful to kids.
T- Time with your kids will help them feel safe. Spend extra time with them. Avoid being rushed. Be available.
A- Assure your children that they will be safe. You can’t promise that you can control everything, but that you and “the good guys” will always do all that we can to keep you safe. Point out some of the heroes who got the bad guys and keep us safe.
B- Balance the media input.Be willing to turn off the TV coverage of tragedies and violent news reports. Protect their innocence.
I- Inform your child or teen with accurate, age-appropriate facts. Adjust to their level of interest, age and questions, NOT your level of anxiety. (TMI)
L-Listen a little longer to your child. She may be talking about something silly, but your presence and willingness to listen sends her a huge message and comforts her. Don’t pretend nothing happened (as in the tragedy), but don’t be consumed by it.
I -Initiate family safety discussions and procedures. Design an emergency plan and actually practice a drill that includes (behavior, communication, meeting place and contact person). This will empower your child and make him feel safe.
T – Touch - Increase the hugs! Even if your teen shrugs you off his shoulder. Hug him anyway. He needs it. Your affection and physical presence matters.
Y – You determine normalcy. If you are freaking out – your kids will be too. It’s okay to let your kids see you upset, but seek to return to a normal routine as much as possible. You set the tone by your behavior and attitude. Your kids will learn how to handle tragedy by watching you. “We weep with those who weep,” scripture says, but we also know that “there is a future and a hope.”
Try these nine tips to help you talk with your kids about senseless violence. Let us know how it goes and add your suggestions. We really do need to keep our kids feeling safe and secure at home and school. They can’t learn, laugh and live if they don’t.