My kids and I usually go away during February school vacation, but relax and stay home during April

's. By that point, we’re exhausted and just need to relax. This year the plan was to watch the Boston marathon, schedule playdates, and spend a night or two in Boston or Cambridge pretending to be tourists. We were too tired on April 15 to go into Boston so we stayed home and ran errands. While in Barnes and Nobles, I looked down to discover 10 new texts, all received in the past five minutes. Leaving Jake and Emily in the children’s section, I quickly went outside to get Internet service and realized a terrible tragedy was unfolding 20 minutes away. Similar to 9/11, this will be a time in history that I will always vividly remember where I was when receiving the news, but unlike the last attack on Americans, I now have children with me who would soon be looking for my cues on how to respond. Since this tragedy happened down the street during school vacation, my children were barraged with much more information than I typically would have allowed. Normally, I place limits on all screen time, especially during tragedies, while providing them with messages of safety. I said the right words this time, too, but deep down I thought, “How can I assure them of something I have no control over?” After all, I’m sure Martin and Jane Richard’s dad delivered similar messages to his children. Yesterday Jake and Emily went back to school looking like they’d be happier to face a firing squad and when they got home I asked if they observed the national moment of silence. They did not. I asked what their teachers said about the marathon. The answer was nothing. They did tell me that all the kidswere talking about it at recess though. This left me questioning whether or not national tragedies (especially ones happening less than 20 miles away) should be addressed in school. Kids are talking about it anyway and most likely repeating erroneous information so should we use this as an opportunity to engage in difficult conversations? Do parents expect schools to address the issue or do they feel it should be up to the family? And, most importantly, can we learn something from the violence that we are increasingly faced with and use these tragedies as teachable moments? Betsy Groves, adjunct lecturer at Harvard University and founding director of the Child Witness to Violence Project, believes schools should address catastrophes while being mindful of parent’s desires and children’s ages. Ideally, teachers would engage students in “open-ended” conversations providing children with the message that, yes, this happened, and, yes, we can deal with it together. As an “empathy educator” I believe we need to take the conversation a step further to talk about why this happened and what we can do about it. Are there ways we can help each other or help those directly affected by the tragedy? Isn’t feeling hopeless worse than feeling like we have the ability to make a difference? We don’t know enough about the perpetrators to understand their actions but we can read books to our students or look for historical examples of similar situations and learn from them. Children are hurting and instead of pretending as if this didn’t happen or

thinking it is someone else’s responsibility to address it, I believe teachers and parents can work together to make sense of it. By focusing on the first responders and the marathon runners who ran into the chaos thinking of other's needs before their own we have a foundation for a powerful conversation. Reading a historical book with older children such as Number the Stars by Lois Lowry about the brave people of Denmark who helped the Jews during the Holocaust can provide a historical framework about how even in the worst tragedies, people can still do the right thing. Reading Whoever You Are by Mem Fox or People by Peter Spier can engage younger children in stories about what brings us together; instead of what drives us apart. The answers aren’t easy, but I’m not sure the best reaction to violence is no reaction. In this case, doing nothing might actually be doing quite a lot. We can’t stop violence and children should keep their innocence as long as possible, but when tragedy occurs I believe we need to step up and help our children not only process the information, but become better people as a result of it. As Mr. Rogers, one of television’s most beloved patriarchs, wisely said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

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