GUIDELINES FOR HELPING CHILDREN THROUGH CHALLENGING TIMES

The recent heightened alert, threat of terrorism and possibility of war raises anxiety, fears and uncertainty about the future. Children may be especially vulnerable due to their limited life experiences and developmental levels. This is particularly relevant given the repeated exposure to anxiety producing events of the past 18 months.

No matter how frightening some feelings are it is more frightening if no one addresses them. If we are silent, the children who depend on us may experience the added fear that we are not able to take care of them.

Adults are in a position to create an atmosphere of security, stability and support, which will provide a cushion against the full impact of the threatening environment. Thus, it is important that adults first acknowledge their own feelings of uncertainty and find suitable ways to lessen their anxiety. Remember, these reactions may be a normal response to an extraordinary situation. People have different ways of coping and need to do what is best for them. Identify your individual ways of coping: increase knowledge, connect with others, engage in recreation, and honor your spirituality.

To assist children, adults can:

The following is a list of Internet links for teachers and parents in addressing children’s concerns regarding the current threat of terrorism and war.

Project Phoenix: http://www.projectphoenixnj.com

Resources for Teachers

Educators for Social Responsibility, Talking to Children about Violence and Other Sensitive Complex Issues in the World, is a guide for adults who are concerned with how to communicate with young people about difficult issues in their wider words. Questions like should children watch news coverage, what to say regarding current issues and how to deal with fear and rage, are addressed in this article.

Site: www.esr.main.org

Educators for Social Responsibility site provides lessons on stereotypes, prejudice, and propaganda. Provides objectives for assisting students in the analysis of media propaganda in relation to the current conflict.

Site: www.esrnational.org/whatispropoganda.htm

Topics for teachers to discuss Iraq, US & the Threat of War. Presentation of facts for discussion with middle/high school students. Includes guide for eliciting students’ thoughts and feelings about Iraq and the threat of war.

Site: www.esrmetro.org

Education Development Center offers mini-curriculum entitled Beyond Blame: Responding to the Terrorist Attack, provides lessons on topics of justice and discrimination. Free for download. Available in English and Spanish.

Site: www.secure.edc.org/publications/proView.asp?1479

Special news hour with Jim Leher for students. Site features articles written especially for students, related links, and a moderated community forum for discussion of students’ feelings and opinions.

Site: www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/features/after911/index.htm

Resources for Teachers and Parents

National Association of School Psychologists provides guidelines for helping children cope with anxiety relating to the threat or terror/violence. Delineates developmentally appropriate guidelines for discussion with children of different ages.

Site: www.nasponline.org/pdf/violenceTerrorHO

Strategies for adults to help children cope with disaster. Web site provides advice on supporting the emotional needs of children through such topics as "giving reassurance and physical comfort", "helping children release tension", and "modeling peaceful conflict resolution".

Site: www.naeyc.org/coping_with_disaster.htm

Public Broadcasting Station offers advice on how to reach out to teens in time of crisis. Site includes discussion topics, articles, and more.

Site: www.pbs.org/inthemix/healing.together.html

Resources for Parents

EQParenting.com recommends two publications, in particular, to guide parents in responding to the current threats: "Mommy, Daddy I’m Scared: Ten questions your children might ask and how to answer them" and "Coming to Their Emotional Rescue." Visit the web site for emotionally intelligent parenting.

Site: www.eqparenting.com/