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Talking To Children About The Terrorist Attack

Posted September 12, 2001

— Adults across the nation were forever changed by Tuesday's terrorist act. So you can only imagine how children will be affected by the images they see. How do parents even begin to explaining it all?

Psychologists say we need to discuss this with our children. So how do you begin to help them understand?

"I'd probably start with So what have you heard?"

Dr. Sandra Wartski is a child psychologist with special training in helping kids deal with disaster. She suggests askign your child about what "Wartski: find out what your child knows."

Wartski says find out what you child knows and then be honest about what happened, keeping the explanation simple.

"Depending on your child's level of what you feel they can handle, you can talk about planes crashing into buildings, important buildings. "

Explain that people were hurt and killed.

"You don't need to get into all the details of who it might be or how many thousands. Kids don't necessarily need to hear that," she says.

Whay is your children ask questions you do not know the answer to?

"Give them information you know, but it's also OK to say 'I really don't know yet' or 'I don't understand either.' It's OK to use those words," says Wartski.

For children who fear what could be next, reassure them that everything possible is being done to keep them safe. Wartski says it is also important to keep your children on their regular routine.

"Kids and adults do better when we have as much of our routine so we know what's happening next," she says.

And remember, kids take cues from adults.

"They may not know what to make of a situation," says Wartski. "They take a quick glance at a parent and will run with that. It doesn't mean you have to fake it, but be aware of what your reactions are."

Wartski says use what happened as a life lesson.

"What good can they take from it. What can they learn from it. What does it mean to the importance that life is short. Let's appreciate what we have," she says.

It is recommeneded that children donotwatch the video beign shown on TV over and over, if at all. Never let them watch alone. Doing so can only add to the trauma. Do try to give children some idea of what is gong on so that they do not go somwehere else to find out.

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