Regarding our children and their perceptions of the terrorist attack, for Basque and others I have several suggestions
TV: My main concern is that many young children are seeing the planes hitting the trade center over and over. And seeing the bodies falling over and over. An early elementary age child does not have the cognitive development to recognize that these are the same video clips shown repeatedly. They see each showing as though it is a new and independent event. This magnifies the horror of the event. In the last days I have worked with all age school kids. A number of children in a variety of kindergarden and first grade classes told me the morning after that 8 (10 or 7) planes had hit buildings. They had counted them – to them an invasion.
The other thing that horrifies them is the footage of people jumping and bodies falling. (Horrifies me too.) They can’t understand why someone would choose to jump. I think fear of falling is universal. One of the most innate perceptions that develops early on is a baby/toddler’s avoidance response of what appears to be an edge. Often bad dreams are dreams of falling. We need to protect our children from these replayed TV images.
It’s our nature to want company and more info when a tragedy befalls. Just remember – providing too much info for children is stress producing. If you have children in your house, don’t leave the TV on even if it is a kind of comfort to you. Take time to be with your children when they watch. Ask them what they’re thinking and feeling. Talk it over and continue talking it over.
Questions: Answering their questions is hard as Basque said. Young kids may just need to hear that there are “good guys” and “bad guys”. The bad guys did this and the good guys will catch and punish them. If they’re old enough, let them know we have a government that is working on that. Tell them they don’t need to worry, mom and/or dad will care for them. Older kids may need more discussion. This may be a good time to talk to older kids about discrimination and stereotyping. Muslims are not bad people even though the terrorists who did this are. The key is to see what they are thinking about and go from there.
Some children will need to be asked what they’re thinking and feeling. Some will talk to you nonstop.
Routines:All children need to feel that the adults in their life have control. They need to feel safe. Departure from routines adds uncertainty. Stick to routines as much as possible. I think being in school right now is important. Schools in our area as in most areas are working with psychologists to help kids deal with what’s going on.
Emotion: As I’m sure you parents know, children pick up on your unspoken emotion, so saying you’re sad or angry when you are is the best route. For those who have firefighters who are away from home, be especially careful to let your kids know that the missing parent is alright and thinking of them. Reassure them as to that parent’s safety and love.
You know your children. We need a healthy generation to be growing up. Please parents, curtail/monitor/discuss the TV watching.
Thank you for all you do. My prayers are for us all.