Talking to your kids about Boston

Last week, I wrote about a very special episode of Glee, where the subjects of gun policy and school violence were explored. I urged you to talk to your kids and students concerning the issues and how to stay safe.

Monday brought Patriot Day and the 117th Annual Boston Marathon, one of the largest marathons in the country. Ive never run the Boston Marathon, but its on my list of life goals. Its that big of a deal among runners and non-runners alike. Theres a certain prestige to running the Boston Marathon and Im sure the city of Boston and the surrounding areas beam with pride at this time of year.

After all, the Boston Marathon isnt something you just sign up and train to run. With the exception of charity teams, individual runners must qualify during a window of opportunity. And the standards were raised even higher for Mondays race. In a recent article on, a running website, it took a woman named Catherine Young 15 attempts over the last 18 years to earn her first trip to Boston. Thats how serious this is.

So where does that leave us with Mondays tragedy?

I dont watch the news much, but I get updates of breaking news on my phone. When I checked my phone and saw updates about an explosion at the finish line, I couldnt believe it. What astounded me more was that one of the headlines already claimed an 8-year old boy had died.

The loss of any life is sad, and we must remember that there are other injuries than simply the physical ones. As prayers pour in from around the world and our own Archbishop Lori urges us to remember Boston in our prayers, we are still left with lingering questions about safety and how to talk to kids about yet another mass tragedy where there are no answers. Surely Cardinal OMalley, OFM, Cap., has a huge task ahead of him in the Archdiocese of Boston.


Coat of Arms for Boston’s Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley

(Image from

I dont know all the answers, but I have a couple of suggestions:

1.  Limit the amount of news coverage your kids see based on their age and maturity.

 Some kids and teens can handle more than others, but only you know that about your children and students. As an adult I can only handle so much news coverage, so be aware of constant news feeds such as Twitter, Facebook, 24 hour news networks, coverage that interrupts regular programming, and potential gruesome photos on Instagram.

2.  Ask them what they think.

Its possible they havent given it much thought other than this is a really sad thing. What you want to look for in this discussion are signs they may be overly concerned, especially if your child is a runner or other athlete. Check for signs they may see threats that do not exist and have trouble sleeping or concentrating.

3.  Remind them of Gods love and grace.

Its so hard to remind people of Gods love and grace when terrible things happen. People wonder where God is when they are scared, hurt, and dying. God has not abandoned anyone, but we live in a broken world. Unfortunately, sometimes we get caught in the crossfire of those who wish to do evil things and hurt people. Its during these times we may wonder why evil seems to be winning, though we know God always triumphs in the end. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul says this:

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall read, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6: 7-10, RSV)

In other words, bad things are going to happen, but we are called to always do good and not lose heart in the process. It may seem like tragedies are more frequent, closer to home, or just that there is no end to the evil to surrounds us. We cant lose heart.

Thats what we take away from Mondays Boston Marathon: dont give up, dont lose heart, and remember to do good to everyone.

See also

Preparing to field a child’s questions about tragedy

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.