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After the Boston Marathon explosions, what parents should do first

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  April 15, 2013 08:00 PM

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I haven't quite stopped shaking yet, but I want to put up a post.

I found out about the Boston Marathon explosions when my daughter called me as she was running from them. She was at the Prudential Center on Boylston, just a block or two from the scene, close enough to see the explosions. "Turn on the TV," she said to me as she and her friends ran. "There's something happening here. Tell me what's happening."

So I turned on the TV, and, well, there are no words. And the fact that my child was so close to it...makes it even harder to find words. Crying would be much easier than talking right now.

But words have to be said to children; as parents, we don't get the luxury of processing and dealing separately from our children. So here are some suggestions as we all do that processing and dealing, as we all try to be sure that our loved ones and friends are okay...

First of all, give your kids a hug. And your partner. Call your mother. Honest to God, call anyone and everyone you love and make sure they know you love them. Don't wait another second. The world is a tenuous place, and those we love are more important than anything.

Second, shut off the television. It's hard not to stay glued to the television, especially since we are waiting for answers and are wondering how this will affect our lives in the days to come. But shut it off--it's too much, and too disturbing, for young eyes. Get your information from your laptop and smart phone instead.

Tell your children what happened. They need to hear it from you. Keep it big picture; no need for gory details.

Answer their questions honestly. Again, skip the gory details.

Reassure children that terrible things like this are very rare. Usually, Copley Square and other public places and events are safe.

Talk about all the ways that you and other people work to keep them safe. These conversations might just help you, too.

Talk about the heroes. There will be more stories in the days to come, but I heard on Twitter about runners who kept on running--right to the hospitals to give blood. Those are the stories to concentrate on; it can help your children, and give them inspiring and empowering role models.

In the days to come, find ways to help. Maybe it's donating to the Red Cross. Maybe it's writing condolence letters. There will be ways to show that you care, and to make a difference...look for them. 

Here are some resources that I shared on my Boston Children's Thriving blog:

From Boston Children's Hospital: Coping with Frightening Events 
Talking with Kids about News, from PBS Parents. They also have tips on communication strategies.
How to Talk to Kids About Tragedies in the Media, from the Child Development Institute.
Talking to Children About Disasters, from the American Academy of Pediatrics

To all of you who were affected by the horrible events today...I don't even know what to say, except that you are in my prayers and I am thinking of you and crying for you. 

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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