We tell you how to handle these reactions and talk to your children about terrorism.
HOW THEY REACT
INFANTS AND TODDLERS
- Can feel the effect of adverse events such as violence through their caregivers.
- Cannot understand why their caregivers are upset and anxious.
- May have changes in mood, in the way they relate to people and in their crying, feeding or sleep behaviour.
- Pervasive anxiety and depression in caregivers may affect the way infants and young children develop.
- Most upset by the sights and sounds they see and hear.
- Usually confuse facts with their fantasies and fear of danger.
- Have trouble keeping things in perspective and blocking out disturbing thoughts.
- May feel their actions are responsible for events around them.
SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN (I.E. CHILDREN BETWEEN THE AGES OF 6 AND 12)
- Can certainly understand the difference between fantasy and reality but may have trouble keeping them separate at certain times.
- They also may not realise that a single incident is being rebroadcast and so may think many more people are involved than is the case.
- Are concrete in their thinking and need simple explanations for events.
TEENAGERS AND HIGH SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN
- May be interested and intrigued by the politics of a situation and feel the need to take a stand or act.
- They may show a desire to be involved in political or charitable activities related to the violent acts.
- Have the ability to think abstractly about issues like terrorism.
TIPS FOR ALL PARENTS ON TALKING TO THEIR CHILD
- You know your child the best - so use this information as a guideline and start talking to them.
- First ask your child: What have you heard or seen about the attacks? Where did you get your information? (Other kids on the playground, TV, Internet, teachers).
- Having this information will help inform your response, based on your child's age.
Some Concerns Raised:
For Young Children in Elementary School
"What's happened in our city?"
Response: A mother of a five-year-old offered this explanation to her son: "Something very bad and sad happened. Firemen, police officers and doctors have helped the people who got hurt. Police have caught the bad people."
Children may be worried about parents going to work and may be thinking, "Will dad's or mom's office blow up?"
Response: Assure children that this kind of violent act doesn’t usually happen. It is shocking to all of us, but most people are safe and will continue to be safe. A mother offered the following response to her sons: "Your dad works far away but he will be safe. He and his coworkers and the government are doing everything they can to make everyone safe."
"Did children get hurt in the crashes or explosions?"
Response: "A few children may have been hurt. This is very sad. And we send our thoughts and prayers to the families of the children . But most of the children are safe now.” Let children know that if they have any questions about being safe, it is okay to talk about these questions and any feelings of fear or sadness.
For Children in 4th grade and older:
"Why did this happen?"
Response: "We don't know exactly why this terrible act of violence has happened. We know that some people used the most extreme form of violence - murder of innocent civilians - but we don't know their reasons for this act of terrorism. There can be no sane reason for doing this."
"What does our government do to keep us safe from this kind of violence?"
Response: "The army and the police are working to make us safer. They are working to find the people who did this. We must let people know that violence is not a way to solve problems ever."
Children of all ages may feel fearful. Ask children how they are feeling. Some children's expressions of feelings may seem inappropriate (for example, children telling jokes or saying, "It's not big deal") and may take longer to express their true feelings. Be patient and check in with your kids daily to ask if they have any questions. This may need to continue over a few weeks or months. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you feel out of your depth.
TIPS TO HELP CHILDREN FEEL SAFER:
- Talk about the news and provide lots of time for questions (if the children are older). Answer questions at a level children can understand.
- Don't be afraid to admit that you can't answer all their questions.
- Parents should watch the news with their older children but young children may be overwhelmed by constant images of explosions and violence. Turning off the TV for a while is very appropriate.
- For younger children who may show little interest in the news, it's a good opportunity to spend time together reading books that are comforting and letting kids know how much they are loved.
- Even for older children, make sure the family stays connected through‘family time’– such as playing games, reading together or just physically being close.
- Use this as an opportunity to establish a family emergency plan. Feeling that there is something you can do may be very comforting to both children and adults.
- Stick to your family routines and rules – including rules about behaviour. This is reassuring to children.
- All school-age kids will hear about the attacks and ongoing events on the playground from other kids. Be prepared to offer your comfort when they return from school with stories (some of them potentially scary) from other kids.
- In addition to the tragic things they see, help children identify good things, such as heroic actions, families who are grateful for being reunited and the assistance offered by people throughout the country and the world.
- Teachers also can help children with similar art and play activities, as well as by encouraging group discussions in the classroom and informational presentations about the disaster.
Guidelines from Ummeed Child Development Centre
Ummeed Child Development Centre can be reached on 022-65528310/65564054.