Boston Marathon: Poise, no TV key to helping kids cope, says pediatrician
As TV images of the Boston Marathon bombings proliferate, it's important for parents to turn off the tube and, speaking calmly, share their own fears with their children, says a nationally recognized pediatrician.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings children to know: “Why did this happen?” and “Should I be afraid?” Dr. David J. Schonfeld, chief pediatrician at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, Philadelphia, a member of the Sandy Hook Commission on School Crises, advised me today that in order to teach life-long coping skills parents must turn off the TV and share the truth about their own fears with their kids, but in a completely drama-free tone.Skip to next paragraph
Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.
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This morning I asked Dr. Schonfeld if we should let kids of any age watch the images of the Boston bombings on the news and social media and he said that he limits his own exposure to them because, “It’s been shown that those who have a higher exposure to TV coverage of this kind have much more difficulty coping. Why would you keep showing it? Visualizing trauma doesn’t help us overcome it at all.”
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“If you want to teach your child how to cope then you need to model the behavior. Don’t try and hide it from them and put on a happy face because they can sense that you’re not being real. What they take away from that is that you know something bad happened and you don’t want to talk about it. Then they in turn learn not to come to you when they are upset or worried about something in their lives.”
Schonfeld added, “You want to be as calm and reassuring as possible while telling them the truth about how you are feeling. Tell your child that you were upset and afraid when you first saw the images and heard this news and that you were worried too.”
Still, he admits, kids are going to see the images we don’t want them to see and hear all about how two bombs struck near the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday; that the death toll has risen to three and that one of the dead is an 8-year-old boy. They will learn that over 100 were injured at the scene, according to CNN. However, they do not have to learn to live in fear.
In an attack like this, millions are spiritually injured by the impact of the news of these events and that’s just what bombers like to see. The answer I give my sons and any child who asks me is that the “why they did it” is not as important as “why we can’t let this stop us from living our lives.”
During the Gulf War, I was stationed in Tel Aviv for a month, and SCUD missiles would take out an entire neighborhood in the pre-dawn hours and moms would be waiting in the rubble for the school bus in the morning with their kids.
I will never forget the looks of determination on the faces of elementary school children as they boarded the bus with their backpacks over one shoulder and gas masks in cardboard boxes decorated with stickers, hung from straps over the other shoulder.
That is the image I conjured as I watched the news from Boston with three of my four sons.
My 9-year-old son who loves to run and competed in his first official race at his elementary school last fall has been riveted to the news. As the media storm broke and we were deluged with horrible images and the thunder of the explosion being played over and over again on every channel, I grounded myself to be his lightning rod.
I had our first son, Zoltan, 19, after returning from Israel and when he was a toddler and a massive thunder storm hit, my husband taught me a parenting lesson, similar to the one I’d witnessed in Israel.