How to Help Children Make Sense of the Bombing


I am in Dallas, having a good time with new friends and colleagues. I have been – as we all have been – gripped by the shock and tragedy of this whole episode. For a while, I was strangely comforted by the thought of the unknown perpetrators as evil. Now, with the reports from people who knew the two young men, especially the younger one, I am rattled again by the confusion and complexity of humans. If there were pure evil we could maintain the illusion of isolating it and protecting ourselves. If evil comes from sweet-faced young men who are called good dependable friends and who volunteer to be the designated driver (what I heard about the younger brother), then how can we ever protect ourselves? How can we give an acceptable explanation of the events to our children, when we cannot explain them to ourselves?

There is good, sensible advice on the internet and given in interviews on the radio and t.v. Schools send out thoughtful reminders about limiting children’s access to media coverage, monitoring adult conversations about the events so that they are not overheard, and talking to children about all the help being given to the victims so that they will be aware of the constructive activity and not perceive the adults in their lives as helpless and passive. I will read and listen to as many of these pieces of advice as I can over the next few days and report on what I think might be useful.

Right now, though, I want to send a word of caution to parents of young children – maybe especially those with children with developmental quirkiness – but really to parents of all children. Do not feel that you must answer all the concrete questions about these tragic and frightening events that your children ask you. Questions about the details of the bombings or of the injuries sustained, should not be avoided, but should be respectfully declined. Instead, parents will do well to find their own particular way of communicating these general ideas: (1) We will not leave you; (2) We as your parents will work hard to keep you safe and sound; (3) All the grownups in the city will find out new information from what happened so that we can learn new ways to protect children.




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