Grief is the emotional numbness, disbelief, separation anxiety, despair, sadness, and loneliness that accompany the loss of someone we love. So what happens when it is someone that you don’t know? What happens when you have to explain the events of the Boston Marathon to your kids? You are at a loss for words. Imagine you are a small child.
As a child, I can remember the first World Trade Center Bombing (February 26, 1993) and the Oklahoma City Bombing (April 19, 1995). Then bad things happened but not to that scale. I can not remember talking to my family about it, but at school, we talked about it. We had open conversations about it. We would have conversations in class about how horrible things were and how by talking about it actually helped vent our feelings, our frustrations, our anger, and our fears. I was a teenager during these years. This was during the time when we didn’t watch 24 hour news and we didn’t have news on local stations multiple hours during the day.
Today’s climate post 9/11 is completely different from my experiences as a teen. Today our children do not know the feeling of a world without constant news, social media, and internet connection where ever you go. Now as a parent, I have to weigh how much I tell my children. I have to weigh how to answer their questions and these are the rules that I use.
- Answer their questions with few words. When in a conversation, we often lose our kids by using too many words.
- Allow them to express themselves openly. Never negate or undermine their feelings. Let them know that their feelings are valid.
- Let them know that you are worried, scared, or fearful. By not showing them emotions, it can change how they show emotion.
- Hold them in your arms so they know that you are there and listening. Having that connection with them is important. (If they are a teen, sit in close proximity and make eye contact.)
- Write down their concerns if you need to and answer them as soon as you come up with the best response. Depending on what our children hear in the community from friends and their parents, news, or Internet sites, we may have to correct things that we know are not true.
As a parent, we have a tough job, to raise our children to be productive citizens. We have to combat the evil forces in the world and protect them from things we have never expected to protect them from before. What we can do is give them room to express themselves in the way they see fit. Let them know that their feelings are valid. What parents should never do is feed or build onto their fear. Children are resilient creatures. We as parents need to meet them where they are at and talk to them so that they feel protected and understood.