Helping Kids Cope with Terrorist Attacks
Kids today have access to more media sources than any other generation before them. With the onslaught of information and images pertaining to wars and terrorist attacks around the world, it can be difficult for many kids to process, especially in a post-9/11 world where America feels less safe. As parents, we face a new challenge to teach our children not only the coping skills to deal with everyday life, but also the concepts of terrorism, war, and violence. By talking to your kids about these issues, you will be arming them with skills that will serve them, not just now, but throughout their entire life.
One of the biggest mistakes parents can make is to ignore these issues. It may make us feel better to think we are protecting and shielding our children from the bad things that go on in the world, but the fact of the matter is that unless you put your child in a bubble, they are going to hear about them anyway. Headlines on internet homepages, current event materials in schools, and the news blurbs on TV will not evade our kids. Other children and even some teachers will be talking about issues at school, too. We can't keep the information from reaching our children and ignoring it at home only makes it more difficult for kids to talk about and may even make them feel it is inappropriate to bring up.
To help your kids learn coping skills and make them more comfortable with what they see and hear going on in the world, find out what they know and how they feel about it. Kids can have an overwhelming range of emotions when it comes to war and terrorist attacks. They may be afraid something will happen to them, their family, or their friends. They may be afraid to sleep, go to school, or even to grow up. Kids may also experience anger, sadness, confusion, and many other emotions they simply can't deal with alone.
By talking about the events that have gone on and are going on in the world, kids will be better prepared to deal with the next major world event. It will also help alleviate some concerns and fears kids may have, especially if they have family or friends serving in the military. Without an open line of communication, kids may not know what they can and cannot talk about. Showing them that you are not afraid to talk about scary issues shows them that you are capable of coping as well.
While talking about war and terrorist attacks does help children process and cope with past, present, and potential future events, make sure to keep things on their level. Younger children will have different questions than older ones and volunteering too much information may make the situation worse. Don't over-emphasize world events or talk about it so much that your children can't focus on everyday life. While it would be nice if children could experience only the good things life offers, the development of their mental health depends on being able to cope with the bad things.
The good news is, many youth advocate organizations and parenting and health experts have compiled a wealth of information for helping kids cope with war and terrorist attacks. Some of the information comes from trusted kids websites like Nickelodeon's Nickelodeon Talks and PBS has a good article for talking about news headlines. Another good site, Tolerance.org. See Also:
National Center for Youth Issues
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