In today’s world, parents are faced with the challenge of explaining violence, terrorism and war to children. Although difficult, these conversations are extremely important. They give parents an opportunity to help their children feel more secure and understand the world in which they live. The following information can be helpful to parents when talking through these issues with children:
Listen to Children:
- Create a time and place for children to ask their questions. Don’t force children to talk about things until they’re ready.
- Remember that children tend to personalize situations. For example, they may worry about friends or relatives who live in a city or state associated with incidents or events.
- Help children find ways to express themselves. Some children may not be able to talk about their thoughts, feelings, or fears. They may be more comfortable drawing pictures, playing with toys, or writing stories or poems directly or indirectly related to current events.
Answer Children’s Questions:
- Use words and concepts your child can understand. Make your explanation appropriate to your child’s age and level of understanding. Don’t overload a child with too much information.
- Give children honest answers and information. Children will usually know if you’re not being honest.
- Be prepared to repeat explanations or have several conversations. Some information may be hard to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may be your child’s way of asking for reassurance.
- Acknowledge and support your child’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Let your child know that you think their questions and concerns are important.
- Be consistent and reassuring, but don’t make unrealistic promises.
- Avoid stereotyping groups of people by race, nationality, or religion. Use the opportunity to teach tolerance and explain prejudice.
- Remember that children learn from watching their parents and teachers. They are very interested in how you respond to events. They learn from listening to your conversations with other adults.
- Let children know how you are feeling. It’s OK for them to know if you are anxious or worried about events. However, don’t burden them with your concerns.
- Don’t confront your child’s way of handling events. If a child feels reassured by saying that things are happening very far away, it’s usually best not to disagree. The child may need to think about events this way to feel safe.
- Don’t let children watch lots of violent or upsetting images on TV. Repetitive frightening images or scenes can be very disturbing, especially to young children.
- Help children establish a predictable routine and schedule. Children are reassured by structure and familiarity. School, sports, birthdays, holidays, and group activities take on added importance during stressful times.
- Coordinate information between home and school. Parents should know about activities and discussions at school. Teachers should know about the child’s specific fears or concerns.
- Children who have experienced trauma or losses may show more intense reactions to tragedies or news of war or terrorist incidents. These children may need extra support and attention.
- Watch for physical symptoms related to stress. Many children show anxiety and stress through complaints of physical aches and pains.
- Watch for possible preoccupation with violent movies or war theme video/computer games.
- Children who seem preoccupied or very stressed about war, fighting, or terrorism should be evaluated by a qualified mental health professional. Other signs that a child may need professional help include: ongoing trouble sleeping, persistent upsetting thoughts, fearful images, intense fears about death, and trouble leaving their parents or going to school. The child’s physician can assist with appropriate referrals.
- Help children communicate with others and express themselves at home. Some children may want to write letters to the President, Governor, local newspaper, or to grieving families.
- Let children be children. They may not want to think or talk a lot about these events. It is OK if they’d rather play ball, climb trees, or ride their bike, etc.
War and terrorism are not easy for anyone to comprehend or accept. Understandably, many young children feel confused, upset, and anxious. Parents, teachers, and caring adults can help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent, and supportive manner. Most children, even those exposed to trauma, are quite resilient. Like most adults, they can and do get through difficult times and go on with their lives. By creating an open environment where they feel free to ask questions, parents can help them cope and reduce the possibility of emotional difficulties.
How You Can Still Help 9/11 Victims, Family Members
These groups are still honoring victims and helping families 14 years after the attacks.
Enable Victims Of Terrorism Worldwide To Connect
Established to address the needs of children who lost parents after 9/11,Tuesday’s Children has now expanded its mission to support communities and young people affected by terror from all over the world. In addition to providing mentoring and wellness programs to 9/11 families, the organization now also brings together surviving children and young adults to support one another.
Over the summer, a group of 60 young people — which included a young woman whose father was murdered in an attack in Saudi Arabia and a woman whose guardian was killed in a bus explosion in Kenya –- partook in a weeklong conflict resolution seminar in Pennsylvania. The curriculum teaches peacebuilding and encourages positive community action.
Learn more about Tuesday’s Children and what you can do here.
#NeverForget. Seriously. Because Here Come the New Voices. It is now October. The next sad tragedy has struck, this time in Oregon. Talk of terrorism and 9/11 is in the rearview mirror for most Americans. Regrettably, last month’s #NeverForget mantra fades into the background, except for those who live with it every day of their lives. For those who have felt loss firsthand, from a news day long ago. For those who continue to seek deeper meaning, and use #NeverForget as a catalyst for eventual action. Below is my story.
Today marks the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that shocked and devastated America, killing nearly 3,000 people — a day Americans will never forget. With the opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum and the Fulton Center subway hub, downtown Manhattan finally looks revitalized, but thousands of first responders and victims are still suffering from medical issues caused by their time surrounded by ash and debris at ground zero. Even 14 years later, there are still ways you can help 9/11 victims.
Although it might seem like the country has mostly recovered from the terrorist attacks, many victims are living with lifelong illnesses because of them. About 33,000 responders and victims have at least one injury or illness due to the attacks, and at least two-thirds of those have multiple injuries, including chronic diseases like asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, and different cancers. There are federal programs and nonprofits dedicated to 9/11 victims, but some are in jeopardy of ending, and the ones that aren’t could always use additional donations or 9/11 support groups.
Another group greatly affected, the children of 9/11 & those killed in the attacks, needs continued help, especially when it comes to paying for college, and there are numerous scholarship funds dedicated to financially supporting them.
If you want to help 9/11 victims and first responders, even 14 years after the tragic attacks, here are nine ways you can contribute to continued relief efforts and victim assistance.
James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Act
If you want to support a long-term solution to assisting 9/11 victims, join Jon Stewart and the Citizens for the Extension of the James Zadroga Act’s battle with Congress to permanently renew 2010 legislation that helps victims receive health care for 9/11-related injuries and illnesses. Stewart will join first responders in Washington, D.C. next week to lobby Congress to pass a new version of the James Zadroga Act that would make permanent the World Trade Center Health Program, which provides medical treatment for responders, and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which compensates victims. You can help champion the James Zadroga Act by contacting your Congress members and urging them to co-sponsor the bill.
Families Of Freedom Scholarship Fund
Started right after the attacks, the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund helps people who are permanently disabled and children of victims who were killed in 9/11. In the 2014-15 school year, the fund distributed $12.5 million in scholarships to 760 students, according to the Associated Press. You can donate on the fund’s website.
The FealGood Foundation advocates for injured emergency personnel, including 9/11 first responders, who need medical benefits. The founder, John Feal, lost part of his foot while supervising recovery and clean-up efforts after the 2001 attacks. You can donate on the FealGood Foundation’s website.
Michael Lynch Memorial Foundation
Founded in memory of Michael Lynch, a FDNY firefighter who died responding to the 9/11 attacks, this charity provides scholarships to the children of firefighters, and other victims, killed in 9/11. Since it began, the Michael Lynch Memorial Foundation has provided 158 scholarships worth a total of $4.6 million. You can donate to the scholarship fund on the foundation’s website.
Wounded Warrior Project
The Wounded Warrior Project helps servicemen and servicewomen who were physically or mentally injured on or after 9/11. The project’s mission is to raise public awareness about injured service members, help the injured assist one another, and provide direct programs to meet the needs of hurt service members. You can donate to the Wounded Warrior Project on its website.
As a part of its “long term healing model,” Tuesday’s Children helps 9/11 victims, children of 9/11 and their families through career resources, youth mentoring, mental health and wellness, and other support programs, as well as those affected by terrorism worldwide. You can fund its programs by donating to Tuesday’s Children online.
VOICES Of September 11th
Dedicated to helping meet the long-term needs of families affected by 9/11, VOICES of September 11th works with the World Trade Center Health Program to help victims get the health care they need. The nonprofit also created the VOICES 9/11 Living Memorial Project, an online collection of more than 70,000 photos commemorating the lives lost in the attacks. You can donate on VOICES’ website.
National September 11 Memorial Museum
The National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City pays tribute to the lives lost and those forever affected by the 2001 terrorist attacks. The museum’s website says: “Contribute today to help build a lasting place for remembrance, reflection and learning for years to come.” You can donate to the museum online.
New York Says Thank You
The New York Says Thank You foundation focuses on empowering 9/11 survivors, along with victims of other New York disasters, like Hurricane Sandy. It holds an annual “9/11 barn-raising” where the organization encourages survivors of the attacks to help rebuild and strengthen communities affected by other tragedies. You can donate to New York Says Thank You online.
Flow is the mental state in which you are fully immersed in an activity. Your focus is laser-like. You feel lost in the activity — fully absorbed in what you are doing. Time stands still. You are “in the zone.” When in flow, people describe deep concentration, a sense of being in control, and that the activity itself is intrinsically rewarding. Flow is deeply satisfying and brings a feeling of joy. Michelangelo likely felt flow when painting the Sistine Chapel. A quarterback probably feels flow when he is evading a sack or throwing a perfect spiral. I feel flow when I am teaching and writing. My son, Jacob (13), is in flow when he is doing drum performances. My daughter, Shayna (6), describes being in flow when we took a long bike ride through the mountains.
The tricky thing about flow is that you can’t force it. It seems to just happen. There are, however, certain conditions that researchers point to that are critical for flow. To learn more, open our PDF.
Parenting Tips for Anxious Kids Expectations of your child It’s important that you have the same expectations of your anxious child that you would of another child (to go to birthday parties, make decisions, talk to adults). However, understand that the pace will need to be slower and there is a process involved in meeting this end goal. You can help your child break down big tasks into smaller steps that your child can accomplish (first go to the party with your child and agree to stay as long as your child is interacting with others, next time stay for the first half hour). You can help role-play or act out possible ways your child could handle a difficult situation. Saying it out loud makes kids more confident and more likely to try the strategy when your child is alone. Build your child’s personal strength It’s important to praise your child for facing challenges, trying something new or brave behavior. Some children like big loud exuberant praises, others like a quiet pat on the back. There is a lot you can do to help build your child’s competence. Search to find avenues where your child can show he is good at something (music, art, sports). Also be sure your child has jobs around the house that show your child is contributing to the family. Letting your child learn to do things on his/her own While tempting, it is best not to take over or do it for your child. While this might help your child feel better right now, the message your child is getting is that you don’t believe your child can do it. Then your child will start to think the same way about him or herself. Try not to get caught continually reassuring your child that everything will be okay. Teach your child to answer his/her own questions and provide the reassurance him/herself. You can model how you think through and respond to your child’s questions. Helping your child handle his own feelings It is okay to let your child experience some anxiety. Your child needs to know that anxiety is not dangerous but something your child can cope with. You can let your child know all feelings are okay and it is all right to say what you feel. Anxious children sometimes have a hard time expressing strong emotions like anger or sadness because they are afraid people will be angry with them. It’s okay to take time for yourself even if your child wants to be with you at all times. You are modeling for your child that everyone needs some time to themselves. Passing on your fears Try to keep your fears to yourself and as best you can present a positive or at least neutral description of a situation. Let them know that it is safe to explore. It is not helpful to laugh or 1 / 2 Parenting Tips for Anxious Kids minimize your child’s fear. But humor does help one deal with the world, so show your child how to laugh at life’s absurdities and mistakes. Consequences Don’t confuse anxiety with other types of inappropriate behavior. It is very important to set both expectations and have limits and consequences for inappropriate behavior. Parents who have reasonable expectations of their children and clear and consistent limits and consequences for behavior along with love and acceptance have the most competent, self confident and happy children. Courtesy of WorryWiseKids.org
Resilience: The Quality of Survival
American Psychological Association Help Center