addition to the children whose lives have been
directly impacted by the terrorist attacks and
war, most children have seen terrifying images
of destruction on television and the Internet.
They are reading newspapers and they have heard
stories on the radio that speak of grave losses
of life. They will also take emotional cues
from the adults in their lives who have been
watching these events closely.
adults turn to address the needs of the children
in their lives in the aftermath of the tragic
and traumatic events, the following are some
points to keep in mind:
need to consider the impact of their reactions
upon their children. By creating a calm and
relaxed environment in their homes through their
own demeanor, they can help their children to
feel safe. That may not be possible for all
families, particularly those that have been
directly impacted. If they have been visibly
anxious or upset, adults 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 to children
is very important. Many children will have seen
images on television that will prompt questions.
They will continue to hear about these events
in the coming days as well and will be reminded
by images through media and in their everyday
lives, so it is important to keep those lines
of communication open.
In talking to 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 the events that took
place, or that are taking place, occurred in
buildings that are symbols to the outside world
or that are part of our national defense system.
Assure them that adults are working to make
sure homes and schools are safe.
Helping children to separate fact from fiction
is also important. Adults should try to discuss
known facts with children, and help avoid speculation
Incidents have occurred since the 9/11 tragedy
where children of Middle Eastern descent have
been threatened or taunted. This is an excellent
opportunity to help children understand that
most individuals who are from other countries
are fine and good people who live in and love
the United States as much as they do, and that
one should make judgments on an individual basis.
Adults can also talk with children about the
senselessness of violence, hate and terrorism.
They can explain that our country is committed
to protecting the freedom, opportunity and safety
of people throughout the world.
Although you hear it suggested often, if you
are home with a child, you should take extra
efforts to limit their television, radio and
Internet activity in order to avoid excessive
exposure to imagery of the damage and destruction.
Consider activities that you can do with your
child instead. Confine your own viewing to times
when children are less likely to be present.
Adults need to make it a priority to watch the
children in their lives, and understand their
behavior. Children may manifest some behavioral
and emotional changes, including misbehavior,
sleeplessness, nightmares and general anxiety.
These are signs to parents that reassurance
and care are needed.
If a family has strong faith, this is a time
to talk about that faith with children and to
help them relate what has taken place to those
lessons and beliefs. It is also a time to pray
for all of those families who have been touched
by the destruction and loss of life.
Children and adolescents may also be struggling
to understand the immorality of the terrorist
attacks or war. This is an opportunity for adults
to help children understand the presence of
good and evil in the world and discuss children's
concerns about a moral and safe future.
Children will have a range of reactions and
will display a variety of emotions. Adults need
to be tolerant of that behavior and need to
explain to children that it is okay to be upset
If your child wants to be unusually close to
you, like sleeping in your bed or running all
errands with you, it is okay to make changes
to your normal routine and contact, but at the
very beginning you should create a clear understanding
that this is unusual and negotiate a quick return
to your normal pattern.
Adults need to consider how the events may have
had some relevance to their daily activities.
For example, if you travel often by plane, work
in a tall building or in an area that is highly
populated, you may find that your child does
not want to be separated from you. It is important
to take the time to talk about and help your
children to feel secure about separations and
understand your activities and routine.
It may take some time for children to show signs
of stress or anxiety, so the adults in their
lives need to stay especially attuned for changes
in behavior. Children within a single family
may display very different reactions from one
another. Adolescents in particular may display
reckless behavior in the aftermath of the events.
Finally, it may help to engage your children
in activities where they can offer constructive
assistance to the victims of the violence. With
young children, you may want to send drawings
and cards. If your child is a teenager, he or
she may want to donate blood or volunteer with
a community organization that is offering help
to the victims of the terrorist attacks or war.
If you think you need professional assistance
in meeting the needs of a child in your life,
there are resources available to you. There
are excellent state and county mental health
organizations around the country. Schools, community
based organizations and religious institutions
that are located in your community can help
with guidance and counseling or direct you to
the right services.
additional information, please visit the Posttraumatic
information has been provided with the kind
permission of the US Department of Education
Last Editorial Review: 4/2/2003