Terrorism - Helping
Your Kids Cope
By Terence T. Gorski
September 13, 2001
Here are some guidelines for helping your kids deal with the recent
terrorism in New York and Washington:
through your own emotional reactions with other adults, not with your
children. You need to be there for your kids. It's not there
job to be there for you. Take care of yourself by by exercising,
eating well, getting proper sleep, and talking to adult family members and
Remain calm and in control. Your emotional state is the most
important factor that influences the emotional state of your children
Maintain normal family activities and schedules. Kids need structure
and that need is greater during times of crisis. The regular
structure gives a feeling of consistency and safety.
Eliminate television coverage for kids under eight years old.
Limit and supervise television coverage for kids over eight years
old. Trying to keep information from older children may cause even
more anxiety. Be sure that you're there while they are watching to
answer any questions they might have and talk about any reactions they
Note: News reports are for adult viewing only. Vivid
images and vivid verbal reports of planes crashing into buildings,
destroyed physical structures, dead bodies, and wounded people can be
traumatizing. Seeing the same images of disaster rebroadcast over
and over will cause kids to think it's happening again and again.
physically present with your kids. Quality moments emerge in the
midst of quantity time. Kids will ask important questions or share
important feelings at the most unpredictable times. A caring
receptive adult needs to be there when they do.
you kids do ask questions ...
pretend that it's not happening. Your kids will know you're not
telling the truth and will feel unsafe and untrusting as a result.
honest, short, and simple answers. Don't go into too much
detail. If the child wants more information he or she will ask.
you children what they think is going on and how they feel about it.
Listen to what your child says, and validate what happened and their
feelings about what happened. Assure them that they are safe and
will be safe. Here's an example:
Parent: What do
you think happened?
A plane crashed into a building?
That's right, a plane crashed into the building.
Did lots of people die?
Yes, they did! I feel very sad about that. How do you
I feel sad too.
<Parent hugs child> It is sad, but you're safe here with
We'll get through this sadness together
Participate with your children in spiritual activities consistent with
your faith traditions. This could include attending religious
services, praying together, sharing at-home spiritual rituals such
as lighting candles, or writing a letter to God to express their
Don't be surprised if your children become anxious, fearful, or sad.
It's a normal reaction to tragedy. Provide extra understanding,
comfort and reassurance. Don't criticize them. Avoid saying
things like: "It's not that bad!"
importantly, be there with kids. Stay close to them and remain calm
and reassuring. There's no substitute for the presence of a loving
parent in times of tragedy and grief. Remember, the essential job of
a parent in times of national crisis is to comfort and reassure their