Tools for Coping in a Post-9/11 World

August 30, 2004

Even with the healing passage of time, children can have trouble handling the emotions of fear, anger and grief, and the continuing national war on terrorism raises the emotional stakes. Connect for Kids has compiled resources to help.

Helping Kids Cope With Trauma


Crisis Info

The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress offer several helpful guides for purchase, like a "Practical Guide for Crisis response in Our Schools" and "Surviving and Thriving: Living Through a Traumatic Experience."

Helping Children in Times of Terrorism
"We would stress it will generally be the terror generated by a major event, not the event itself, that will have the greatest long-term negative impact on children and families throughout the nation," says the Centers for Disease Control Task Force on Children and Terrorism. They recommend safeguarding America's children by meeting the physical, medical, psychological and social needs of infants, kids and adolescents in preparation and in response to a terrorist attack.

Parents' Guide to Talking with Their Children About War
The National Center for Children Exposed to Violence (NCCEV) at the Yale Child Study Center offers guidance for parents as they help their children process news and information about war and terrorism.

Drop Dad a Line!
The National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), one of National PTA's partner organizations, hosts its "Drop Dad a Line" Web page for the children of deployed military fathers. "Drop Dad a Line" was designed to give children an outlet to post and send messages of love and support to their fathers. Fostering Global Citizenship at Home and at School
National PTA offers this article by Mary-Lou Breitborde which suggests ways for adults to educate their children on global issues.

Supporting Our Children
by Susan Phillips and Jan Richter
All of us who care for children work hard to help them make sense of their world. As adults and kids struggle to come to terms with the seemingly senseless attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and the war on terrorism, we need to find other ways to help them feel safe. Advocacy director Jan Richter and editor Susan Phillips share some thoughts.

Helping Children Cope with Disaster
When no other words come to mind, a hug and saying, "This is really hard for us," will work, advises the National Mental Health and Education Center. This handout for parents describes common reactions by age group and ways to help children and teens, as adults struggle themselves to make sense and feel in control.

Children, Terrorism and Disasters
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers this site for Disaster Preparedness to Meet Children's Needs. Here you'll find information on biological and chemical agents, disaster planning, facts, links and readiness kits.

Talking with Kids about Tough Issues
This Web site offers practical, concrete tips and techniques for talking easily and openly with young children ages 8 to 12 about some very tough issues: sex, HIV/AIDS, violence, drugs and alcohol, and terrorism.

Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters
Helping young people avoid or overcome emotional problems in the wake of violence or disaster is one of the most important challenges a parent, teacher, or mental health professional can face.

Talking with Kids about the News
Graphic footage and accounts of the latest events are being delivered right into our homes 24 hours a day. This constant barrage can be overwhelming for adults, but it can be especially confusing and frightening for young children.

Helping Children After a Disaster
This article from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has suggestions for post-disaster response to children following catastrophes such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, floods, fires and violent acts.

When War is in the News
The Purdue University Extension offers advice to help families as we approach the three year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Talking to Children About Violence and Other Sensitive and Complex Issues
Educators for Social Responsibility has developed an in-depth document that attempts to answer tough questions about the role of media and anxiety and emotions--both the adult and the child's--about a tragic event. It also discusses how to talk about a young person's possible desire to 'retaliate' with violence.

Helping Children Handle Disaster-Related Anxiety
The National Mental Health Association reminds us that each child responds differently to disasters, depending on his or her understanding and maturity. The National Mental Health Association (800-969-6642) can provide you with information about your local mental health association or local American Red Cross chapter.

Talking to Kids about Terrorism or Acts of War
Kids ask lots of tough questions, but questions about acts of terrorism or war are some of the hardest to answer. This guide helps answer some common questions and concerns parents and professionals have about talking to children about terrorism and war.

Identifying and Lessening Trauma in Children
This American Psychological Association site includes descriptions of signs of trauma in elementary, middle and high school age children, and guidance for parents of children, by age.

Will They Fly A Plane Into Our House?
In response to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Childswork/Childsplay and The Guidance Channel are offering a free downloadable book (in pdf format) to help children deal with their fears and anxiety. The book, for parents and adults who work with children ages 5-12, includes a answers to kids' questions and activities for kids. They also have Crisis Resources.

How Does Trauma Impact Learning?
Civitas offers insights into how to recognize the signs of trauma in children.

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Age Specific

Age by Age Insights
PBSParents provides a wide range of helpful tips for parents as they talk to their kids about war and violence. This section offers different sections for babies and toddlers, preschoolers and school age children.

Helping Families Cope with War and Trauma
The Parents as Teachers National Center offers tips for parents of young children.

Zero to Three: Little Listeners in an Uncertain World
In response to the tragic events on September 11, 2001, Zero to Three has ideas in addressing death and terrorism with toddlers.

Helping Kids With Special Needs
Children with a learning disability or ADHD may feel especially vulnerable in the wake of this tragedy. LDOnline has guidelines for age-appropriate help.

Reactions to Trauma: Suggestions for Teens
The National Mental Health and Education Center has brief information for teens on normal reactions to trauma, and how they can help themselves.

Nickelodeon Parent Talk: Violence
Sometimes, violence and the fear of it can feel overwhelming. In today's world reports of violence in the media, in our neighborhoods and even in our schools can make children feel frightened, unsafe and insecure. Talking about it can offer an emotional release.

Tragic Times, Healing Words: Helping Children Cope
It's never easy to know what to say to children in times like these. Sesame Street Parents has developed some suggestions for ways of talking to your child about recent events.

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Loss and Grief

Talking to Children About Death
Most of the time adults are reluctant to talk about death with children. These brochures from Hospice Net have helpful guidance for talking about death with children and teenagers.

Children and Grief
When a family member dies, children react differently from adults. Adding to a child's shock and confusion at the death of a brother, sister or parent is the unavailability of other family members, who may be so shaken by grief that they are not able to cope with the normal responsibility of child care.

Bereavement In Schools
The National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement helps schools to plan for and respond to crisis events and the needs of schools and children related to crisis and bereavement. Of particular interest: "Template Letters for Parents, Students, and Staff During Times of Loss" and "Guidelines for Responding to the Death of a Student or School Staff."

Helping Children deal with their Concerns about War and Violence
Words of advice from Mr. Rogers: help children feel secure, limit TV and listen.

All Kids Grieve
All kids experience loss. The key is to help them channel their grief into personal growth, not violence or destructive behavior. offers books, classroom strategies and information on how to start support groups for kids.

9/11, Iraq and Kids: Tips for Parents provides information and offers advice for parents, educators, and mental health and medical professionals to help children cope with the aftermath of the September 11th attack and the war on terrorism.

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Guidance forAdults

Tips for Recovering from Disasters and Other Traumatic Events
The American Psychological Association has online resources to help adults manage traumatic stress, with specific sections on family.

Finding Ways to Help Yourself
It's hard to help children with their feelings when adults themselves are feeling stunned, confused or anxious. Arizona State University has some good advice for adults.

Coping With Disaster: Tips for Adults
The National Mental Health Association offers resources for adults on how to handle disaster-related anxiety, as well a section that helps adults talk to children about their own anxiety.

Preparing to Handle Disaster
The American Academy of Pediatrics Family Readiness Kit offers concrete advice for what families can do in advance to prepare for the disruptions and possible dangers presented by a tornado hurricane, or terrorist attack.

Crisis Communication Guide
The National Education Association has posted resources and tools from its guide, which addresses parent and community concerns, as well as those of teachers in the classroom.

Common Sense on Biological and Chemical Hazards
Get the facts in this article on the actualities of biological and chemical warfare from SFC Red Thomas, a retired armor master gunner from Mesa, Arizona.

Q & A on Anthrax
Having good information is one of the best ways to protect your family against bioterrorism. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers guidelines.

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Anti-Discrimination Resources

Teaching Tolerance is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national non-profit civil rights organization that promotes tolerance and diversity and combats hate and discrimination through education, investigation and litigation. This online resource is designed for easy access to news and engaging exercises that promote personal soul-searching.

Promoting Tolerance and Peace in Children: Tips for Parents and Schools
While anger is a normal response felt by many, we must ensure that we do not compound an already great tragedy and react against innocent individuals with vengeance and intolerance, says the National Association of School Psychologists. Find key messages for adults to help children, and themselves.

When Hurt Leads to Hate
As adults we need to be aware of and stand up to physical and emotional hate and empower our children to do the same. This article from the New York University Child Study Center has ideas for how parents can help children deal with this crisis without becoming prejudiced, stereotyping specific groups, or retaliating with acts of bias.

Reporting Harassment
If you or your children have been subjected to harassment or attack, the Council on American Islamic Relations Web site has guidelines, a phone number and an online reporting form.

Help against Hatred
Along with advice for parents on talking with children, the National PTA has posted information on talking with children about hatred and prejudice.

"Advice to Educators"
The Arab American Anti-discrimination Committee offers teachers and youth workers information about teaching tolerance and suggestions in how to create a safe environment for potentially targeted students. "How to Respond to Incidents of Discrimination in Schools: Advice to Parents" details a step-by-step course of action.

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Lesson Plans for Teachers

Helping Children Cope: Tips for School Personnel
The National Emergency Assistance Team of the National Association of School Psychologists present sound strategies for supporting children and young people during troubling times.

Coping in Unsettling Times
The National Association of School Psychologists has materials and tips for helping children to cope in unsettling times.

Be Prepared!
The National Education Association Health Information Network offers online resources to help teachers and parents cope in today's tense times.

9-11 as History
Family and Work Institute has put together lesson plans and other items available online to help adults help children remember and mark September 11th.

Talking with Children about War and Violence
Educators for Social Responsibility has more than 50 free lesson plans customized to help educators and students discuss, analyze and respond to the events since 9/11, as well as a range of divergent points of view; a guide for talking to children about violence and other sensitive and complex issues, a follow-up guide on responding to violent events by building community, and a special newsletter dedicated to the crisis.

National Council for the Social Studies Articles and Resources
The National Council for the Social Studies provides articles and resources designed to create a forum for issues regarding the teaching of social studies relating to September 11 and its aftermath.

PBS Plans
PBS has a variety of lesson plans: "A World at Peace" for elementary grades and "Tolerance" and "Emergency Preparedness" for older students."

Voices from the Classroom"
Youth Communication has posted its stories on tolerance, stereotyping, war, loss and friendship, each followed by several questions to spark discussion and reflection on those themes."

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