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Boston Marathon bombings: Talking to your kids

Runner Megan Cloke pauses after placing flowers on

Runner Megan Cloke pauses after placing flowers on the doorstep of the Richard house in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Martin Richard, 8, was killed in Monday's bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (April 16, 2013) (Credit: AP )

When I heard about the explosions at the Boston Marathon, my first thought was, yet again, another perfect day turned into a tragedy.

Like many parents, hearing about Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who lost his life while waiting to give his father a hug as he crossed the finish line, hit close to home.

How do assure your children that this type of violence won't happen at a large sporting event, a professional baseball game or even a family-friendly concert? How can you help them feel secure again?

I reached out to Tracy McNally, a middle school psychologist at Locust Valley Middle School, who offered tips on preparing yourself to have this difficult conversation with your kids.

1. Reassure your child that he/she is safe and that what happened in Boston is a very rare event.

2. Let your child know that when you go to big events, such as a concert, sporting event or festival, the adults in charge take a lot of safety precautions to ensure that everyone at the event is safe and has a good time. "Again, what happened in Boston is an extremely rare and unusual tragedy," said McNally.

3. Monitor your own emotions when you talk to your child. "Children pick up on their parents’ emotions so remain calm," she said. "If you do become upset, take a minute for yourself to get your own emotions under control."

4. Make sure that you normalize your children’s feelings. Don’t deny that this is a very sad tragedy and it is OK to feel sad that this happened and many people were hurt.

5. Monitor your child’s exposure to the media, including social media, television and any visual images they may see of the tragedy. "This is a great time for you turn off the TV and spend time with your child by taking a walk, playing a board game or just hanging out together," McNally said.

6. "This could be one of those 'teachable moments,'" she said. "The next time you go to a large event, take a minute to point out the safety and security measures that are in place (for example, personnel checking bags, security officers located around the premises, etc.).

Lastly, if you feel that your child is having a difficult time in the wake of this event, contact the mental health professional at their school or at your community mental health center.

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