Dr. Shapiro completed his undergraduate education at UC San Diego, earning a B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and a B.A. in Political Science. He furthered his education at UCLA where he earned a Masters Degree in Public…
How to Talk to Your Children About the Boston Tragedy
Posted in Bereavement by Dr. Jeremy F. Shapiro on Apr 22, 2013

How to Talk to Your Children about the Boston Bombing
By: Jeremy Shapiro

My heart goes out to all those affected by the tragedy that occurred in Boston last week. I am also extremely saddened by the fact that it hasn’t been so long since I was writing about how to talk to your children about a different catastrophe, the school shooting in Connecticut, and about the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is a great resource for parents who need assistance in this kinds of discussions.
But here we parents are again, struggling to explain the inexplicable to our children. It’s important to realize the bottom line is that our children do better coping with a disaster when they believe they understand what has happened. So, with some assistance from the AAP, here are some helpful guidelines for parents to consider when talking with their children about any tragedy…including the horrific event of just a few days ago.
- Provide basic information about the events—some details may be too overwhelming. Obviously, your decision about what to discuss and what to omit will be age-based. The discussion with a 12-year-old will be different than the one with a 7-year-old.

- For younger children (and even older children), make sure they are aware that there are many people out there to protect them. Although no promise can be given that a similar disaster won’t occur again (and it’s best not to make that promise), reassure them that steps are being taken to keep them safe.

- Older children will want more details about the events and aftermath, but before rattling off everything you know, ask them what they know. Despite your best attempts to limit their exposure to media in your household, they will obviously have access to information outside the household. So ask them first what they know and allow that to lead the conversation.

- Always ask your children what questions or concerns they have.

- Remember that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Try not to give false hope or make promises you can’t keep. Whether you’re talking about a natural or a man-made disaster, there is an unfortunate likelihood that it will happen again one day.
For further resources on how to talk to your children about disasters, check out the AAP website. It has a good section on talking to children about disasters. And if at any point you feel you need greater assistance in discussing or reassuring your child, please talk to your child’s physician about finding a specialist to assist you.

Dr. Jeremy


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