04/16/2013 12:13 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2013

Talking With Children About Tragedy -- Again

With the tragic, unthinkable and unbearable bombing in Boston, in which more than 170 people were injured and three killed, including (horror of horrors) an 8-year-old boy, I thought that I would address how to talk with children about tragedy -- again. The last time I wrote about this awful topic was on December 15th, right after the mass shooting in Newtown. I can't believe that I have to share this information again. And so soon.

One of the (many!) sequelae involved in a disaster is how to help children through this trauma. The fact that we even have to help children through something so catastrophic is unimaginable because, really, who on earth could possibly have imagined something so evil?

Here are some suggestions for helping children:

1. Encourage ongoing dialogue. Keep the lines of communication open at all times.
2. Listen and reassure.
3. Turn OFF the television.
4. Encourage feedback.
5. Do NOT discuss the gory details.
6. Normalize feelings, whatever they may be, whenever they may present.
7. Use the conversation as an opportunity for learning.
8. Maintain a consistent routine, because children equate a routine with stability and security.

The important thing to know is that children take their coping cues from us, the trusted adults in their lives. This isn't to say that we should cover our pain. Not at all. Rather, we need to model healthy coping mechanisms for our children. Some examples include:

1. Talking
2. Moderating news intake
3. Self-care (eating, sleeping, bathing)
4. Express our feelings

Each child will react in his or her own way. Children are able to hold only so much pain. During periods of intense grief and confusion, a child's inherent need to play and laugh and show joy will come through. Please allow this to happen. It is normal.

During this period of grief and recovery, I hope that you will hold the children in your life tightly and love every minute that you have with them. As we have learned so tragically, every moment is indeed a gift.

Here is an excellent resource that offers additional support and guidance:

National Association of School Psychologists on Talking to Children About Violence

To read more, please find Hollye at or email her at