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FOR TALKING WITH CHILDREN ABOUT OUR NATIONAL DISASTER:
young children that they will be loved and taken care of.
Most young children sense when
their parents are upset. Reassure
them that, "Mommy loves you. I'm
upset about something that's happening far away.
It's not your fault that I'm worried.
Go easy on
"positive" promises. Distinguish
between hopes and facts. No one can
predict the future. You can't
promise that someone will be safe, but you can hope that they will be safe.
Explain what's being done to protect them.
If children ask, "could it happen here?", be honest but
hopeful. For example, "Yes, it
could happen here, but it's not happening here now, and we are doing everything
we can to stay safe."
children's feelings. Some
parents, in an attempt to reassure their child, may cause more distress.
For example, "Don't be scared.
There is nothing to worry about. I
will keep you safe." This
answer may cause confusion. If
there is really nothing to worry about, why are grown-ups so upset?
Instead, a parent might respond, "Yes, this is very scary," and
then reassure them that you love them and they will be cared for.
It is important with both children and teens to follow their normal
routine as much as possible. Sleep and eat at the regular times. Attend school, sport and other activities.
Limit the amount of
disaster news children hear on radio, TV or in conversations.
most children, and many adults, continuous war news and discussion creates
confusion, anger, or fear. When
children do watch the news, you might ask, "How do you think kids feel
about this?" or "I'm wondering what is confusing about this for
Open avenues for
wait for your child to ask. If
children think you don't want to talk about "it," they won't ask.
Look for the delicate balance between being willing to discuss
events and feelings, and demanding discussion.
Listen to kids. Do not
your child has a different view of the world--listen.
Reflect their feelings and worries.
For example: "It's
confusing and upsetting when people hurt so many innocent people."
Discuss your feelings about the situation with your children. They need models for talking about and coping with
feelings. For example:
"I'm angry about what's happened.
I'm worried about the people who have been hurt."
Share with children how
you cope with your feelings. Most
parents have strong feelings about terrorism.
We cope with them in different ways.
For example, organizing
prayer, donating blood and supplies, listening to soothing music, staying busy,
talking with friends, or writing letters.
Help your children find constructive responses to the disaster.
way to reduce anger, stress, and anxiety is to do something with your
feelings. The activity will be more
helpful if it has meaning to your child or teen.
Some examples are: art
activities for children to express their feelings, games that enhance peaceful
ways of solving problems, or avenues for children and teens to contribute in
meaningful ways to areas in needs.
above copied from: Help for
Kids. Understanding Your Feelings
About the War. Carole Gesme
M.A., CCDP, Daisy Press, Minneapolis, MN. 1991.
This specific material was authored by Elizabeth Crary, 1991.
Communicating with Children about Disasters
response to the tragic events unfolding in New York and Washington, DC,
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) would like to offer some advice on
to communicate with children and adolescents during times of crisis.
* It's important to communicate to children
that they're safe. Given
they may have seen on television, they need to know that the violence
isolated to certain areas and they will not be harmed. Parents should try
assure children that they've done everything they can to keep their
* Adolescents in particular can be hard
hit by these kinds of events
parents might want to watch for signs such as: sleep disturbances,
lack of pleasure in activities enjoyed previously, and initiation
illicit substance abuse.
* Overexposure to the media can be
traumatizing. It's unwise to let
or adolescents view footage of traumatic events over and over.
and adolescents should not watch these events alone.
* Adults need to help children understand the
significance of these
Discussion is critical. It should be stressed that the terrorist
are ones of desperation and horror - and that they're not about
or religion. Children should know that lashing out at members of a
religious or ethnic group will only cause more harm.
following AAP documents can be found at:
the Psychosocial Implications of Disasters (AAP Policy statement)
Psychosocial Issues for Children and Families in Disasters: A Guide for the
Care Physician (Joint publication between AAP and US Center for
Mental Health Services)
Disaster Preparedness (AAP policy statement)
Disasters Demand Psychological Triage (AAP News article)
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has suggestions for
Children After a Disaster." They can be found at