Two days ago, my third grader came home from school and told me, “My friends are really scared because the police haven’t found the person who set off the bombs at the Boston Marathon.” Then she looked at me earnestly and continued, “If there was a bomb at our school, I wouldn’t stop to put on my jacket or my shoes; I would just go to the Kindergarten to get Annie Rose, and we would get out.”
Her shoes? Umm, okay.
“Katie,” I started, but then I stopped. What was I going to say? I couldn’t promise her that in no way would she ever be in this type of situation, although I do think it is extremely unlikely. This was a time to think carefully about my responses, because I wanted to validate her fearful emotions while offering her as much reassurance as possible.
I decided to let her be the guide in the conversation, listening to her talk, offering only as much information about the situation as necessary. I answered her questions without volunteering additional information.
“It is scary,” I agreed. “And even though there are some people who do bad things, I want you to remember that there are many many more people who do good things.” I thought of the Mister Rogers quote that has been circulating the Internet, and I showed it to her:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” - Fred Rogers
As much as possible, I want to preserve my 9-year-old’s sense of security, because I know she needs to feel safe in order to function well at school, at home, and in all of her activities. As a result, these are the steps we have taken, and she seems to be responding well:
Carrie Goldman is the author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.