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How to talk to your kids about terrorism, disasters

April 16, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Lots of people woke up Tuesday morning with feelings of anxiety and sadness. Some doctors call this a post-traumatic response to Monday's tragedy in Boston. So many images and sounds of the aftermath have triggered feelings as well. Many parents are asking how they can help their kids sort through their concerns.

From coast to coast, parents are grappling with questions: How much do they tell kids about the deadly explosions in Boston? Or do they tell them at all?

Long Beach resident Oyala McCraw, a mother of five, says that after Monday's bombings the sound of sirens and the sight of airplanes make her 12-year-old nervous.

"I have to explain to them that it was just some crazy people in the world and just for whatever reason they decided to just drop bombs and blow up innocent people," said McCraw.

Dr. Andrew Leuchter with UCLA's Department of Psychiatry says feeling anxious, scared or angry are normal reactions and everyone will have their own individual response. But kids get their cues from parents, so it's important to remain calm when answering questions.

"Parents know their kids better than anybody else," said Leuchter. "You know what your child's capacity is for understanding. You know where they're at."

Experts agree it's difficult for adults to make sense of terrorist acts, but finding a way to come to terms with it and then explaining that to your child will give them reassurance.

"Speak with the little ones in your life," said ABC's Dr. Mehmet Oz. "Answer any questions your children may have. Tell them they are safe in their own home and their schools and that while bad things happen, they are loved."

"These unexpected twists and turns and tragedies of life are all part of the business of raising our kids," said Leuchter.

Oyala McCraw felt reaching out to her kids first was the most important thing she did.

"They're going to hear about it, and it sounds better coming from mom and dad than kids on the street that may put their own little twist on it and make it worse than it really is," said McCraw.

Dr. Leuchter says if you or your child feels sustained emotional distress, or if you're unable to function, sleep or eat for an extended period of time, it's a sign that you might need to seek professional help.


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