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1.          Reassure 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. 

2.     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." 

3.          Accept 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. 

4.        Maintain routines.  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. 

5.     Limit the amount of disaster news children hear on radio, TV or in conversations.  For 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 kids?"

 6.     Open avenues for discussion.  Don't 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.

 7.        Listen to kids.  Do not interrupt. If 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."

 8.          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."

9.     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.

 10.    Help your children find constructive responses to the disaster.  One 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. 

Material 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. 


Subject:      Communicating with Children about Disasters

 In response to the tragic events unfolding in New York and Washington, DC,

the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) would like to offer some advice on

how to communicate with children and adolescents during times of crisis.

*     It's important to communicate to children that they're safe. Given

what they may have seen on television, they need to know that the violence

is isolated to certain areas and they will not be harmed. Parents should try

to assure children that they've done everything they can to keep their

children safe.

*      Adolescents in particular can be hard hit by these kinds of events

and parents might want to watch for signs such as: sleep disturbances,

fatigue, lack of pleasure in activities enjoyed previously, and initiation

of illicit substance abuse.

*      Overexposure to the media can be traumatizing. It's unwise to let

children or adolescents view footage of traumatic events over and over.

Children and adolescents should not watch these events alone.

*     Adults need to help children understand the significance of these

events. Discussion is critical. It should be stressed that the terrorist

acts are ones of desperation and horror - and that they're not about

politics or religion. Children should know that lashing out at members of a

particular religious or ethnic group will only cause more harm.


The following AAP documents can be found at:   - How Pediatricians Can Respond to

the Psychosocial Implications of Disasters (AAP Policy statement)

- Psychosocial Issues for Children and Families in Disasters: A Guide for the

Primary Care Physician (Joint publication between AAP and US Center for

Mental Health Services)   - The Pediatrician's Role in

Disaster Preparedness (AAP policy statement) - Child Deaths Hit Communities

Hard: Disasters Demand Psychological Triage (AAP News article)  


The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has suggestions for

"Helping Children After a Disaster." They can be found at