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Talking about tragedy with tweens

Welcome to Tween and Teen Tuesdays at Today we’re talking about tragedy with tweens and teens – it’s a difficult subject.


I know they’ll come home and have heard about the bombs that went off in Boston today – did I just type that? The bombs that went off in Boston today. 

Will they know that the family they have there is safe, or will they be worried?

Do they understand that it’s nothing like a movie? That the injured people can’t get up and walk away or come back in the next scene?

I want my boys to be safe and to feel safe.

This is what we’ll focus on:

1. Bad things happen, but the percentage of people who are hurt by bad things is very, very small. You’re as safe as you can be right now.

2. The heroes – the many, many heroes – who were on site helped the injured people. Without a second thought they ran towards the site of the blast to help. The heroes made people comfortable and got them help. It was awful that the bombs went off in a crowded area, but that also means nobody was alone.

3. The police are looking for the bad guys. They will look and look for them until they are found. They won’t stop looking.

4. Be empathetic. You don’t know if you’ll be speaking in front of someone who has a personal tie to the attack, so be sure to think twice before speaking about it.

What am I missing? What will you say to your tweens? I want to make sure I don’t forget anything.

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  1. I would only add that, if they are really affected, there are always follow up opportunities. Chances to talk again, to check in on how the injured are doing, and to do something kind to help the city of Boston heal. These tragedies have the silver lining of letting us show some empathy, and find an act of kindness with which to “fight back.”

    1. I agree, Dr. G – thank you. I’m sure there are lots of things we could brainstorm and even more will present themselves in the next few days.

  2. Kara Kelso says:

    I think you have a pretty good list to start with. Honestly, I think the best way to talk to kids, especially preteens and teens, is to just be straight with them. Ask if they have any questions or concerns, because you never know what their imagination might come up with. Yet know they are old enough to understand the cause and effects of conflicts in our world.

  3. Gramma Teetsie says:

    My heart breaks that you have to even write a post like this. I want my Grandsons put in a bubble so they never have to feel scared or threatened in any way. God bless all those people and their families and I hope the family that lives there are safe and sound.

    1. Me too – I’d love a bubble.

  4. Shannan @Tween Us says:

    I really agree with Doc G that you can do things to help kids feel empowered and like they are a force for good. I also think it’s important to follow their lead, particularly in terms of how much information. Answer questions if they ask, but there’s no need to leave the tv on, as much as we are tempted to do so as adults because we want information and answers. Following their lead is also true in terms of emotions. My tween asked about it when she got home and she was not nearly as bothered as I was. No need to force my sadness upon her. I’m torn between thinking she feels safe, which is great, or she’s becoming somewhat desensitized to tragedy, which is very upsetting.

    1. I agree with everything you said, Shannan – I feel the same way.

  5. Thanks for sharing. In our home the tv was turned off and we only talked about bad people and bad things. My kids are 4 & almost 6 so we didn’t want to not talk about it, but also didn’t go into details. My son is a worrier so we also included extra cuddles in our evening routine.

  6. My tween looked at the TV for a minute or two, then walked away. This morning he asked if the military caught the guys who made the bombs go off yet. We did not push the issue and he did not ask any questions.

  7. Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell says:

    My kids are young adults so I was able to talk freely about it with them.

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