Helping Our Children Cope
Tips for Addressing the Needs of Children in the face of Terrorist Attacks
The acts of terrorism on September 11, 2001 and the continuing concern with terrorism within the United States have had a direct impact on children of all ages. Most children, if not directly affected by these acts, have been exposed to media coverage of the events or have listened to discussions about the events. They also take emotional cues from the adults in their lives who have been watching these events closely.
The United States Department of Education suggests some points to keep in mind as we address the needs of children in our lives.
Adults need to consider the impact of their reactions upon their children. By creating a calm and relaxed environment in their homes, adults can help children to feel safe. If adults have been directly impacted and have been visibly anxious or upset, they need to take the time to explain to the children in their lives what they are feeling and why.
Taking the time to listen and talk with children is very important. Many children will have seen images or heard talk on television that will prompt questions. It is important to keep open the lines of communication as events unfurl.
When talking with children, adults can and should try to reinforce that they are doing everything in their power to make sure their children are safe and explain that adults are working to make certain that homes and schools are safe.
Helping children to separate facts from fiction is very important. Adults should try to discuss known facts with children and to avoid speculation.
This is an excellent opportunity to promote tolerance. Children need to understand that most individuals who are from another country and/or culture are good people who live in and love the United States as much they do.
Adults can also talk to children about the senselessness of violence, hate and terrorism. They can explain that our country is committed to protecting people throughout the world.
If adults are home with children, they should take extra efforts to limit their television, radio and Internet activity in order to avoid overexposure to images of violence. Confine your own viewing to times when children are less likely to be present.
Adults need to be tolerant of children's behavior as they grapple with the fears and confusion that have arisen in their lives. It is wise to explain that it is okay to be upset or disturbed. If it is necessary to make small changes in daily routine to accommodate fear of separation or to allay anxieties, it should be made clear that the changes are temporary. Effort should be made to return quickly to a normal pattern.
Finally, it may help to engage children in activities that can offer constructive assistance to victims of terrorism. School, religious, and community organizations welcome assistance.