seven-year-old asked her mother, “Why aren’t they using their
words?” In another home,
an eleven-year-old asked, “Why are they killing innocent people?”
As caring parents, we prepare to talk to our kids about many
subjects, but it’s painfully difficult to talk to our children about
events like we’ve just witnessed in the United States.
the easy access to media, it is nearly impossible to protect our kids
from frightening and confusing world events, especially when it hits so
close to home. If children
watched the news today, they may have seen such graphic images as
buildings crumbling before their eyes, people bleeding and injured from
the attack, or fires burning into the night.
If children didn’t see television, it is likely that their
friends did and will be talking about it in great detail.
we say to our children depends on their age, the questions they ask and
our own political or moral beliefs.
Whatever we feel about what has happened, we want to encourage
children to be curious, to value peaceful resolutions to problems and to
feel free to come to us with questions and concerns.
course parents will have to take into account many different
circumstances when dealing with this topic.
The child’s age, the impact on your immediate family, the
exposure to media, and individual differences will all need to be
carefully considered. The
following tips are offered as a general guideline.
shown us that children filter their reactions to trauma through their
parents. The level of
children’s emotional disturbances correlate closely with the amount of
distress that parents display. Child
Development Specialist Helen Danielson says that children and teens have
“radar.” They know when
adults are afraid and are not telling the truth.
Commonly adults tell children “not to worry” and yet show
plenty of signs of worry themselves.
This simply makes kids worry more and display their worries in
other ways. Adults must
take additional time to talk openly, honestly and often.
Try to find out what your children already know about the attack
and how they found out about it.
Validate their child’s perspective; never criticize, but always
honor their feelings. By
listening and hearing the children’s stories, you can get to the
source of the fear and provide comfort.
Let them know you understand what is happening is confusing and
Let them know you’re glad to be talking to them about it.
Share your opinions and feelings about the attack, whatever they
are. Allow your children to
express their own opinions.
Ask your children if they are worried and/or frightened. Even if they say, “No,” you are giving them permission to
have those feelings and to talk about them if they choose.
Explain to children that what’s happening is real.
Unlike violent movies, television programs, cartoons or video
games, real people are dying and being horribly hurt.
Expressing our own feelings of grief and horror about what
happens in a war is a good way to help children learn compassion and
However we feel about the terrorists, our children should know
that their classmates of other nationalities or origin are not bad
people. This is a good opportunity to debunk stereotyping.
Maintain a Regular Routine
teens find security in a consistent routine.
Although this is a very difficult time for everyone, maintain
normal routines for eating, sleeping and play.
Research has shown that behavioral problems increase when
schedules are inconsistent and disruptive.
If, for example, your child’s regular routine is to be in bed
by 9:00 p.m., but now the bedtime has been extended so they can view the
10:00 news reports, the routine has been disrupted.
Make every attempt to return your child to his or her regular
scheduled television programs which are interrupted for war reports or
news updates, may disrupt your child’s routine.
Because television brings this breaking news into our homes,
adults must closely monitor viewing.
Turn the television off to protect young children from hearing
and seeing the violence. Their
inability to distinguish fantasy from reality could intensify fears.
And because of their limited experiences, older children may not
have developed mature judgment to interpret what they see.
Develop Your Child’s Sense
important to build your child’s sense of security by helping them to
achieve a sense of control. When
children or teens feel out of control, they may show some of the
following symptoms of stress or anxiety:
Among preschool or kindergarten children
Clinging to people or a favorite toy, blanket, etc.
Unexplained crying or tearfulness
Change in relationships with same-age friends
Choosing adults over same-age friends
Increased acts of violence toward people or things
Unable to speak, eat or play normally
Regression to an earlier stage of development
Sleep difficulties (nightmares, sleep talking, bed wetting
Any of the above signs
Complaints about stomach aches, headaches or other illnesses when
nothing seems to be wrong
Increased irritableness or crabbiness
Increased problems with school, including a drop in grades,
unwillingness to go to school, odd complaints about teachers or school
· Behavior changes
Any of the above signs
Aggressive behavior (getting into a lot of trouble at school, at
home, or with the law)
Low self-esteem and increased self-criticism (blaming themselves
for a situation)
Misdirected anger (lots of anger over small events)
Loss of interest in usual hobbies or activities.
We can help
our children develop a sense of control by involving them in creative
expression of fear through puppets, art, music, drama, speeches, debates
and storytelling. Children
or teens can write letters, create journals, develop class projects that
promote patriotism, or learn more about helping organizations such as
the Red Cross. As parents
we can encourage their concern and compassion.