Helping Children Cope with Trauma and Tragedy

WATERTOWN, MA – (April 17, 2013) – As details about the Boston Marathon Bombing continue to emerge, many parents and caregivers are searching for ways about how to talk to their own children about this tragedy and answer their questions. Talking to kids about this topic is important, but must be done with sensitivity and awareness. While we would like to shield them from an incident like this, they may catch glimpses of the TV, hear their siblings talk or just sense that something is wrong. Now more than ever, parents and caregivers have to be prepared to answer their children’s questions and provide reassurance to make them feel safe, comforted and loved.

Below are tips and advice for parents and caregivers from What Happened to the World?a guide from Bright Horizons, to help children cope in turbulent times.  

  • Don’t over-explain. Adults often have the tendency to over answer. Listen intently to what children are thinking or asking before answering. 
  • Physical Symptoms. Remember that children’s concerns and fears may be unspoken and show up as physical symptoms, like a stomach ache or head ache.
  • Stay on track. It is important to children that they know they can depend on their daily routines in times of great stress. Keep bedtime regular, and follow your regular family routines throughout the day.
  • Stay tuned into the child. Keep listening, asking, dialoguing, and reassuring as the child’s thoughts and feelings evolve. They need honest answers, but do not need details that will disturb them. Do not bring up issues that don’t appear to be on the child’s mind, but do listen for hidden questions.
  • Stay positive. Remind your child of all the good things people are doing. You can say specifically, “There are a lot of people doing good things to help us.” 
  • Take care of you. To take care of children, you need to take care of yourself. Talk about your feelings with adults with whom you feel secure. Cry when you need to, and seek solitude when you have to. Take breaks from the news and headlines and create daily routines and rituals that support your current needs
Additional information for talking to children about tragedies and difficult situations can be found on the Bright Horizons website at