Guidelines for Helping Children Cope with
War and Terrorism

The war and ongoing threat of terrorism raise 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 extraordinary events. 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:

  • Demonstrate faith in the resiliency of the human spirit.
  • Encourage children to talk about their feelings and validate their reactions.
  • Clarify information in order to dispel misconceptions, which will vary according to each child’s developmental stage.
  • Recognize the impact of media (TV, radio, internet, newspaper) on children. Provide an opportunity for children to discuss what they have seen or read.
  • Limit children’s exposure to media to lessen its impact.
  • Dedicate a brief period of time to discuss daily news reports before resuming normal activities.
  • Maintain structure and normal routine to increase feelings of safety and security.
  • Foster recreational activities as a physical and emotional outlet.
  • Increase communications between home and school.
  • Encourage children to take action, i.e., letter writing, advocacy and drawing. This creates a sense of control.
Resources

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

Project Phoenix: http://www.projectphoenixnj.com
Educators for Social Responsibility: www.esrnational.org
National Association of School Psychologists: www.nasponline.org
National Association for the Education of Young Children: www.naeyc.org/
Public Broadcasting Station: www.pbskids.org/rogers/parents/war-thoughts
Parenting: www.eqparenting.com
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning: www.casel.org/trauma
National Mental Health Association: www.nmha.org
Better Homes and Gardens (click on family at bottom of page): www.bhg.com
Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D.: www.aboutourkids.org