Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 11: 10 Years Later - Talking to Chidren about 9/11

Today's installment of Counseling Corner takes a look at how to talk to your children about September 11, and about terrorism in general.

As we, through this difficult and emotional week leading up to the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sunday, please consider these important issues when interacting with our children.

1. Children may have no interest or little understanding of what is going on. Remember, that while 9/11 changed the world and the way we live in it, children under 10 have no frame of reference for this, and children under 5 probably don't have a clear memory of that day.  It has simply been the world they live in. Do not assume they know what the world was like pre-September 11, or what happened that day.

2.  Monitor what your child is watching on television and on the Internet. As always, be aware of what your child is watching on television or viewing on the Internet. You can set your DVR to pre-record newscasts so that you screen them for your children, and be prepared to answer questions about what they see. Better yet, turn off the tube for the week, and go do something fun with your kids! We can very easily get sucked back into watching the news stories and images all over again.

3. Find out what your child knows before talking about 9/11 or terrorism. We may assume that because it was such an earth-shattering event, that everyone knows about 9/11 and terrorism. Children may have knowledge about this, but assessing how much they know before giving them detailed information is critical. Moreover, what you tell them will depend on their age, maturity level, and knowledge.

4. Listen to your child and let him know you understand his feelings. Don't feel like you have to talk and talk, sometimes it is best to just sit and listen. Hearing scary stories and seeing violent images can cause children to feel fearful and can even cause nightmares. Listening to your child and letting them know you understand how they feel ("You seem to be afraid by what you heard. I will keep you safe").

5. Answer her questions. Children may have questions - even some questions we can't answer. Be honest, keep it simply, and use accurate but non-emotional or violent language. If you don't know the answer, say so. You don't have to know it all.

6. Keep to routines and schedules. Kids need routines and need to know what to expect. Even though this week may contain special events, or telecasts, it's important to keep the focus at home.  Allowing children to watch their normal television shows, helping with homework and keeping to set bedtimes is important in developing a sense of safety and security.

7.  Allow children to be children!  Gt your children outside to play, run and get out excess energy. As a general rule, not just this week, kids need physical exercise and to develop play skills, teamwork, sharing and imagination. Exercise can also help with sleep and decrease anxiety. Limit television to a few favorite, appropriate shows.

8. Let your son or daughter know that they are safe. Children need to feel safe and secure. Reassure them that you will keep them safe from harm and will worry about those bad things, so they dont' have to. Sometimes, just a hug can help children feel secure and loved.

9. If your child is having nightmares, is fearful  to leave the house, or is otherwise having difficulties, and you don't know what to do, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!

The link below will take you to a video starring Linda Ellerbee called “What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001.” and aired on YouTube and Nickelodeon website to address children and explaining what happened on 9/11. This video was created through a partnership between Nickelodeon and the American Psychological Association. Please note how this video gives an honest and clear explanation of the event, but also focuses on the positives, those saved, and the spirit of the New Yorkers on that day.

You can view the Press Release discussing the video as well as the video below. (Clicking this link will take you away from Counseling Corner).


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