Last week's bombings at the Boston Marathon continue to dominate the news. The suspected bombers – a pair of brothers – have been identified and apprehended, with one of them captured alive. Now the question is why?
Though our spirits were buoyed by the stories of heroism and Americans pulling together in the aftermath, the attack on an American city has revived conversations about the 9/11/01 bombings in New York City and Washington, D.C. Many Americans now feel more vulnerable in the land of the free, and there’s a call in some quarters for increased security and the ongoing need for vigilance.
This week’s poll on beefmagazine.com asks, “Are you more concerned about terrorism this week?” With 74 votes so far, 47% feel about the same; 28% say, “yes;” and, 24% say, “no.”
You can vote in the poll here and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section as well.
I don’t know about you, but the 24/7 coverage of this senseless act of violence can be overwhelming, depressing and disheartening, to say the least. As adults, we have coping mechanisms to deal with this onslaught of bad news, but what about children? How do they process all this talk about bombs, explosions, terrorists and civilian deaths?
Even if your children never voice their concerns, they might be holding in a lot of anxiety. The North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service has several articles related to this topic that could be of assistance, including how to talk to your children about terrorism, how to help them cope with the threat of terrorism and more.
First, talk to children about terrorism. Here is an excerpt from NDSU on how to talk to children of different ages:
- Young children - Preschool children will be very confused by these events. Many young children do not know how to tell if something happened to them or to other people. They will be very sensitive to what adults are feeling. Young children can be an important asset to adults at this time, too. Holding and hugging young children can be reassuring to adults and children.
- Elementary school children - Some school-age children will want explanations of the events and the factors involved. It is important to assess each child's level of understanding to see if he or she is capable of understanding the difference between the news media reports and the entertainment shows they're used to watching. Help school-age children understand where the attacks occurred and where the city is in relation to your location. They will benefit from expressing their ideas in various forms, such as drawing and other creative art, writing and music. Children also would benefit from taking some kind of action such as writing letters or cards of support.
- Adolescents – This age group will want more details and will have more skills and coping strategies to deal with the event, but they still will not deal with it the same way as adults. Because adolescents tend to look at the world in a black-and-white fashion, they may want to know who the bad and good guys are. It would be helpful to guide them toward separating the evil of the event from the value of people. Adolescents easily could take the emotions of the event as a call to paint entire groups as enemies or evil. They may be able to understand that the concerns of groups may be legitimate but that using violence, whether it is a fist, bomb or another weapon, is never the best way to deal with frustration or anger.
- Young Adults - While people in this age group often feel invulnerable, events this traumatic and close to home may shake their certainty. Young adults will be more knowledgeable than children about the nature of the attacks, and the consequences and their fears will be more realistic. Their methods of coping with those fears may not be. Young adults tend to focus on the cause and may want to take some kind of action. Older adults can help them keep this in perspective and guide them to positive outlets such as collecting money for victims, or attending a vigil or memorial service.
Laura Kane for PR Daily writes about how to use basic public relations techniques to speak to children about terrorism. Here is an excerpt from the article:
- Know your audience. Determine how much your child can handle – based not on age but on overall emotional maturity. How much do they understand? How will they be affected?
- Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Knowing that you’ll probably face questions, don’t just wing it. Think through the issues, and have a basic plan in terms of how you’ll address them. How much detail will you provide? How will you present it in a way that’s understandable, but not worrisome?
- Control the message. If you don’t speak for yourself, the media will always find somebody else to speak for you (especially in a crisis). Social media is a powerful influence in our children’s lives. Shared articles, tweets, and posts infiltrate their minds and play a role in defining their view of the world. Don’t allow them to get their news and analysis of the state of our union solely from Facebook and Twitter. Be proactive, and engage them in conversation. Ask whether they have questions. Learn what they know, and help them process everything—in your own words.
- Be honest. This doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything that’s on your mind, including your fears and concerns. Just ensure that what you do share is truthful. Children take the lead from their parents (whether they’ll admit it or not). Give them enough detail so they can process what they hear with a basic understanding and an ability to form their own opinions – not that of their “friends” or those they “follow.”
- Be brief. There’s only so much they can handle (or that they care to hear). Make your point, tell them as much as they need to know, then let them ask questions. Adults are often passionate about what’s going on around us, but this isn’t the forum for venting or getting on our soapbox.
How are your children reacting to the news of the bombings at the Boston Marathon? What is your best advice for dealing with this stressful news with your families? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.