What Can You Say to Your Kids?

August 24, 2008 10:45:37 AM PDT
An expert has advice on how to talk to children about the attacks on the World Trade Center, especially for children 5 and younger. Parents should try to explain what happened in simple language their young children can understand. Children 6 to 12 years old see things in very black and white terms.

It's very important for parents to remain calm and not to show panic or fear, because the child may pick up on this and become more anxious.

Children older than 12 and into their teens will want to master the situation. That means they should do something to be part of the solution. They could volunteer at Red Cross centers, hospitals, houses of worship and make phone calls to family members and friends to check on their well-being.

Parents should be on the lookout for signs of post-traumatic stress: crying, irritability, nightmares and other sleep problems. Other signs include disobedience, including refusing to do homework. Children may also be depressed and withdraw. If it gets to that point, it's important for families to consult a mental health professional; a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Adults may be numb to these events at first, but later show signs of post-traumatic stress, including nightmares, vivid flashbacks of the day's events and depression. Men often show these signs more frequently than women. Women tend to be more open to expressing their emotions.

People who have these symptoms should be encouraged to express themselves, by keeping a journal or talking to friends and family. Just like lancing a boil, the more that comes out, the better.

Adults should take advantage of professional help, including religious counselors.

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