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Boston Marathon: Poise, no TV key to helping kids cope, says pediatrician

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Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

(Read caption) Boston Marathon runners and spectators wait to get back to their hotel, on Monday in Boston, Massachusetts. Several hours after two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the city is cordoned off around the bomb site and filled with law enforcement officials.

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In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings children to know: “Why did this happen?” and “Should I be afraid?” Dr. David J. Schonfeld, chief pediatrician at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, Philadelphia, a member of the Sandy Hook Commission on School Crises, advised me today that in order to teach life-long coping skills parents must turn off the TV and share the truth about their own fears with their kids, but in a completely drama-free tone.

This morning I asked Dr. Schonfeld if we should let kids of any age watch the images of the Boston bombings on the news and social media and he said that he limits his own exposure to them because, “It’s been shown that those who have a higher exposure to TV coverage of this kind have much more difficulty coping. Why would you keep showing it? Visualizing trauma doesn’t help us overcome it at all.”

“If you want to teach your child how to cope then you need to model the behavior. Don’t try and hide it from them and put on a happy face because they can sense that you’re not being real. What they take away from that is that you know something bad happened and you don’t want to talk about it. Then they in turn learn not to come to you when they are upset or worried about something in their lives.”

Schonfeld added, “You want to be as calm and reassuring as possible while telling them the truth about how you are feeling. Tell your child that you were upset and afraid when you first saw the images and heard this news and that you were worried too.”

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