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The Boston Marathon Bombers have been apprehended – one killed, one captured. It may seem like it’s over, but for many kids, it’s not. The terror that they experienced, by being a witness to the events in person, on line, or on TV is still there. Scary images of bombs exploding, law enforcement personnel with guns drawn, ambulances, helicopters, sirens, gun fights, and lock downs continue to run through their minds. These children are suffering with ongoing anxieties about similar bombings happening to them or in their neighborhoods.
Anxiety symptoms can include repetitive What If thoughts (What If there is a bombing in my town?), sleep problems, appetite problems, crying, explosions of anger, development of new fears (such as fear of going out in crowds, malls) and new anxiety habits (such as repetitive checking of locks in the house or avoidance of trash like the ones where the bombs were planted). These are very real symptoms and can cause genuine distress for children and their families. When the symptoms don’t go away, they can evolve into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
What can you do to help your child worry less and be more resilient? Listen to his or her fears. Don’t minimize them. Reassure children that you are there to protect them and the likelihood of another bombing in their neighborhood is very low. Normalize their lives – be sure your child’s life goes on as normally as possible – school, activities, playmates. Distraction is always a good strategy. And remember, it takes time.
It happened again. Another terrible, senseless tragedy. A frightening event all over the news. A child was killed. Over a hundred injured. Children worry and worry and worry, Will this happen in my school? What about the races in my town? Will I be hurt in a bomb?
Many kids do not feel safe when they hear about events such as bombing at the Boston Marathon on Monday. It’s no wonder, as many adults don’t feel safe either. As parents, one of our many important jobs is to teach young people how to manage their fears in a what is often a very scary world.
It’s not easy to do this but you can get a good head start by working with your child on two concepts – likelihood and anti-terrorism efforts. It’s not realistic to tell your child that things like this NEVER happen. They do happen. Fortunately, they happen very rarely and the likelihood that something as dreadful as the Boston bombing will happen to your child is very, very, very low. Even though children may see or hear about something bad , it doesn’t mean it will happen to them.
The second concept is reminding your child of the strong and vital anti-terrorism effort of our government. Very smart people are working very hard to locate and capture the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon. Many terrorists have been apprehended before and brought to justice. It may be only a matter of time before these terrorists have been captured as well.
We don’t live in a perfect world. We don’t live in a world that is always safe. But we can help our children navigate their way through their fears in the best way possible. For additional readings on this topic, see Time Square Bomb Threat Can Scare Children.
It’s that time of year again, and many families are planning vacations or visits to grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins or family friends. It may feel like a vacation to children, but parents often complain that it feels more like a relocation than an actual holiday break. Overstimulated children out of their regular routines can be difficult. Different rules and expectations of your hosts can be even more challenging to parents who are trying to keep everything under control.
Try your best to maintain family rules while on vacation and always teach children to be respectful of your host. Realistically you might not be as successful as you would like. It’s important to remember that the holidays and holiday visits are time-limited. All too soon, you will be back home and involved in familiar routines. If your expectations for your children’s behavior return home with you, things will be back to “your family normal” before the holiday trip.