When the news reached us, we were on the West Coast, near the beach. Then, the messages came – by text, Twitter, Facebook and email. “Are you ok?”
A friend of mine is serving in Afghanistan right now. Even she sent a concerned email last week. “We’re fine,” I said. “How are you?”
When something momentous happens, people seek connection. If they are not there, they reach out to people they know who might have been there. I hated being away from Boston last week. I felt disconnected from this thing that had happened where I live, and from the people who were there and experienced it.
Being separated, though, gave me a chance to look at the bigger picture. I thought about those people who live with wartime violence and terrorism every day. I thought about how terrified my neighbors were and what it must be like to be the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and other places where terrorism and war are happening all around them.
So why did the bomber do this terrible thing? The suspect, it appears from various sources, felt disconnected from American life and may have sought connection via extremist groups. ( US officials also told The Associated Press that Tamerlan Tsarnaev read jidahist websites and extremist propaganda, including Inspire magazine, an English-language online publication produced by al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate.)
Here’s a picture that circulated last week on the internet: Syrians reaching out for connection to Bostonians. Others wrote, “Today we are all Bostonians. Tomorrow, can we all be Syrians?” Could greater connection across cultures help end war?
On to the question at hand, here at MMC: How to help kids deal with the media images they are seeing.
My advice to parents when something frightening happens: Limit exposure of young children to news images and stories on TV. Of course you are glued to the TV, anxious for every update. But young children don’t understand what is going on. The TV images keep repeating, and kids think the bad event – the explosions – keep happening over and over. They don’t know where it is happening and think these bombs are nearby, or getting closer. It can be traumatizing for young children. Even when they don’t seem to be paying attention, be aware that if you are interested, they pick that up. At times like this, I remember what a friend told me after 9-11. A news junkie, she had been glued to the TV the entire day. A day later, she noticed her son building tall towers out of Legos, and then flying his little model airplane into them. He was only two years old – she didn’t think he had been watching.
Here’s a message from the past (This photo of Fred Rogers circulating on social media):
For more, go to the Boston Children’s Hospital pediatric health blog: Helping children process the Boston Marathon bombings
“The most important thing any parent can do in a time like this is reassure their children that as a mother or father you will do everything in your power to keep them safe.”
Did you notice your kids acting out the explosions? Did they ask any tough questions? Please let me know your experiences.