Helping Children Make Sense of the Senseless

Tragedies like the Boston bombings require a loving, shared response, experts say

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The 8-year-old boy killed Monday in Boston was Martin Richard, of Dorchester, Mass. "It touches people in a particularly poignant way when you know that an innocent child died, particularly knowing the circumstances, and just how tragic that is," Fornari said. "We can put a face on that terror."

Adults have their own anxieties to deal with as the world reacts to the events in Boston. U.S. cities including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York are ramping up police presence in public venues. In London, security arrangements for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral on Wednesday are being intensified, the Associated Press reported.

Such very public escalations of security can put people under greater stress. Both Fornari and Yehuda agreed that doing something positive and reaching out to others can help everyone cope. "If kids are impacted, you can allow them to retell the event, either through writing, through artwork," Fornari suggested.

"Children and adults often feel very powerless when this kind of an event occurs," Yehuda said. "But doing something, being positive, is a great way to make a child and an adult feel less helpless and less terrified. A child can always be encouraged to do something positive -- like writing letters to people that are in the hospital, for example, or trying to raise money, or trying to see if there are any kids that we can send something to, to cheer them up."

If you're anxious and on edge, Yehuda said to "try to become part of a problem-solving solution. Within an hour of the explosion yesterday, there was an online social media website in Boston where people offered their homes and their beds, to do things for other people."

Connecting with others helps, too, she said.

"It's an incredibly moving and important aspect of trauma to know that you are in a community where the good really outweighs the bad, and that for every person out there who has an intent to harm, there are millions with the opposite intent," Yehuda said. "So something good can come out of these tragedies. One is, we find our humanity."

More information

Mental Health America has more on helping children cope with tragedy.

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