The horror that unfolded before our eyes on September 11, 2001 was both frightening and numbing. With each passing year the probability of another attack on our country increases. Talking with our children about terrorists and war is a daunting task. The issues are multi-fold, as will be their questions and concerns. Allowing children a voice, reassuring them realistically about safety, and being honest with them about our feelings is just the beginning.
Issues you may want to discuss with your kids about terrorist attacks are:
- Explain that the government is working to keep Americans safe.
- Explain to them that there is extra security at airports, particularly if you engage in regular business travel or are planning a family vacation.
- Let kids know that they are safe and that you are safe.
- Tell kids that it is safe to go to school and that we must go about our lives as normally as we can. Explain that the principal and others who work at their school are there to protect their safety.
- Address the issue about our country being at war only if the kids ask.
- Be honest with your children about your feelings; however, be careful not to appear out of control. Be sure your responses are age appropriate.
- Children hear words such as Al-Qaeda or suicide bombers. Explain in simple terms what a terrorist is. Be sure your child understands that not every Muslim is a terrorist.
- If you are planning a trip with your children, allow the children to talk about their fears and issues.
- If you travel, stay in close contact with your children. Let them know that they can call you.
- Most important, maintain as much routine as possible, and keep an ear tuned to their need to discuss these events and their feelings and fears.
Here are some questions you may want to ask your kids:
- Ask your children what they know about the events at the World Trade Center, or any current terrorist attack in the news.
- Ask your child/children what they think has happened.
- Encourage children to express their feelings. Allow them to talk about the event and listen very carefully. This will help you to find out their degree of distress.
- Answer their questions with simple, honest and accurate answers. Ask specific questions such as "How do you feel? Does it make you feel scared? What worries you the most?"
- Is there anything else you want to talk about?
"Even though your kids will consistently do the exact opposite of what you're telling them to do, you have to keep loving them just as much." -Bill Cosby
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