log in | how it works | about | contact

Recent Posts


Expert Insights: Explaining the Boston Tragedy with Dr. Ohr of Press4Kids’ News-O-Matic.

April 20, 2013

by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief

At eNannySource, our hearts and prayers go out to those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. As a lifelong Massachusetts resident who has taken past charges to watch the Boston Marathon, the events that unfolded at this year’s event hit too close to home. And like many moms, I wanted to know what to say and what not to say to my young children with regards to the events. I caught up with Child Psychologist Dr. Phyllis Ohr, who offered some helpful tips.

eNannySource:  How can parents offer reassurance to their children?

Dr. Ohr: Parents should offer their children a chance to sit down and talk with them about anything stressful in the news. They can “make a date” to talk, for example, over hot chocolate or when taking a walk or sitting on a park bench or park swings – any time or any place is good for a talk. If they are not directly impacted by the tragedy parents can reassure their children that their life as they know it has not changed- their family members are still there, they still go to the same school and have the same friends. Parents can “normalize” their child’s feelings -which means reassuring their child that feeling upset is very normal and that some kids may feel sad, others may feel scared, and others may feel mad- or all 3 at the same time or different times. Many might not know how they exactly feel, but just know they are upset. And it’s also normal not to feel upset, because the tragedy may seem so far away. Whatever they are feeling, parents should tell their child that if they are so upset that it’s hard to be in school, or with friends, or with family, they should talk to their parent about how hard it is and their parent could help them problem solve what to do to make themselves cope better.

eNannySource: What should parents tell their toddlers? Preschoolers? Elementary-schoolers?

Dr. Ohr: In my opinion, toddlers (2-3) are too young to be told about the events. Preschoolers can be told that some people were hurt in a city called Boston during a race and some very smart people in our country are trying to find out what happened so they can stop it from happening again- I would then ask the preschooler if they have any questions and then answer their questions in a developmentally appropriate way, making sure they give answers directly addressing the question -don’t diverge. For elementary age children I would first ask what they know about what happened to see if they have accurate info- parents should correct any inaccurate info and give the facts and then have their child ask any questions they may have.

eNannySource:  What about media coverage? What age should children be exposed to it? How much?

Dr. Ohr: I don’t think toddlers or preschoolers should be exposed to media coverage- they would have difficulty grasping what’s going on and may be confused by the emotional intensity of the adults covering the news. Perhaps as early as second grade but definitely by fifth grade many children are able to gain exposure to information independently by reading, watching TV or online, even if parents think they are limiting it. I would recommend that parents assume their child can gain access to media information about upsetting events and talk to their child about how to deal with news that’s upsetting, rather than assume they can control the degree of exposure. That doesn’t mean parents can’t set rules (for example, watching news programs together), but they may not be able to enforce rules if they are not with their child all the time.

eNannySource: What’s the three best tips you can give parents for talking to their kids about tragedy?

Dr. Ohr: 1) It’s always good to first ask their child about what they already know of the tragedy 2) Don’t assume you know how your child feels or give your child the expectation that they have to “feel” a certain way. Also, don’t assume that your child knows how he or she feels, sometimes adults can’t identify their feelings in the face of tragedy. 3) Don’t be afraid to show emotion when you speak to your child of tragedy, but model good ways of coping with your emotions- show your child how you can use calm breathing to help cope.

eNannySource: What are some good resources for families impacted by these events?

Dr. Ohr: For families experiencing post traumatic reactions, they may want to consult with a mental health professional, such as a psychologist who is affiliated with a hospital or community mental health center. For support, there are religious groups or hospital-based groups.

eNannySource: What should parents do if they hear their children talking about the events in ways far beyond what they’ve told them?

Dr. Ohr: Calmly, and without negative judgment, correct the misinformation and encourage them to approach you with information they get from others so you can help them understand.

eNannySource: How can parents focus on the good in the world when so much bad seems to surround us?

Dr. Ohr: Show them pictures and tell them stories of all the first responders and the good Samaritans, all of the “helpers” who come out when evil strikes. Together with their children they can think of ways they can help others touched by tragedy so they can do good.

If you would like more information or tips, you can visit www.press4kids.com.


One Response to Expert Insights: Explaining the Boston Tragedy with Dr. Ohr of Press4Kids’ News-O-Matic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Gillian B says:

These are great tips! I recently shared News-O-Matic’s article on the Boston tragedy with my son. We had a great discussion about it. I’m glad there is a resource I can use to talk to him about these issues.