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Grandparents Can Help Grandchildren in Aftermath of Tragedy

Explosions At 117th Boston Marathon
Boston Globe via Getty Images

By Amy Goyer

While details are still being learned about the explosions at the Boston Marathon, I wanted to share with you how you can help your grandchildren heal from a tragedy like this.

 We want them to be active and healthy throughout their lives, and encourage them to exercise —  perhaps even become a runner — and they might have questions about today’s events.

So, how can we help our kids and grandchildren cope with these traumatic events? How can we help them to continue to feel safe in everyday places, such as school, the mall, movies, the grocery store or even their place of worship?

The most important things are to acknowledge what has happened, listen to their fears, reassure them and do whatever it takes to help them feel safe. Some children won’t be forthright about their fears or discomfort, so observe carefully for any signs of anxiety.

The American Humane Association has these additional great tips:

  • Keep an eye on children’s emotional reactions. Talk to children – and just as important – listen to them. Encourage kids to express how they feel and ask if anything is worrying them.
  • Regardless of age, reassure them frequently of their safety and security, and reinforce that you, local officials, and their communities are working to keep them safe. Older children may seem more capable, but can also be affected.
  • Keep your descriptions to children simple and limit their exposure to graphic information. Keep to the basic facts that something bad happened but that they are safe. Use words they can understand and avoid technical details and terms such as “smoke grenades” and “sniper.”
  • Limit their access to television and radio news reports since young children may have trouble processing the enormity of the experience, and sometimes believe that each news report may be a new attack.
  • Be prepared for children to ask if such violence can occur to them. Do not lie but repeat that it is very unlikely and that you are there to keep them safe.
  • Watch for symptoms of stress, including clinginess, stomachaches, headaches, nightmares, trouble eating or sleeping, or changes in behavior.
  • If you are concerned about the way your children are responding, consult your doctor, school counselor or local mental health professional.

Find more helpful guidance for helping children cope with tragedy from Save the Children.

Life is tentative so hug the kids in your life today. Tell them you love them. Be with them. And cherish every day with them.

Follow Amy Goyer on Twitter @AmyGoyer and Facebook

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