In the wake of yesterday’s tragedy in Boston, Huffington Post Parents ran this article, which they had previously run following the Newtown School shootings, quoting the incomparable Fred Rogers on how best to engage children when horrific events unfold in the news. Aside from the quote above, which I think is wonderful, the advise he gives is very sensible – limit a child’s exposure to television, internet, and radio news, model calm behavior in front of children, and go out of your way to affirm your love and care towards your child as they process the traumatic event. The included link to his website leads to further advise for parents.
A good deal of research has taken place in the U.S. in the years following 9-11 about the psychological implications of large-scale natural and man-made disasters. Parts of these studies have focused on the resilience of young people, and the factors that contribute in helping them process traumatic events. A 2004 NYU Medical Center newsletter highlights the important link between children and the adults in their lives when it comes to positive outcomes:
In a study of post-traumatic stress in Israeli preschool children 30 months after SCUD attacks, the psychological well being of mothers and other family members was the best predictor of the child’s mental health.11 When families and mothers ‘did well,’ so did their children. Conversely, families and mothers who showed negative post traumatic reactions to the attacks had children who showed similar negative outcomes.
I highly recommend checking out both articles, as they are great resources for parents, teachers, and those who interact with Children regularly.