Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

"On September 11, 2001, my daughter's fifth-grade teacher had the class watch some of the news coverage of the terrorist attacks. Since then, she has been preoccupied with concerns about safety and wants to watch the news with us every night. How should we handle this?"

A. We have all been shocked and emotionally overstimulated by the events of September 11 and their aftermath. Not only do we need to regulate the emotional impact of these events on our children, but we need to be careful not to let ourselves become obsessed about current events. Here are some other ways to help children cope with these uncertain times:

Regulate the level of incoming media according to age. Think through your child's temperament. If your child is sensitive or easily frightened, limit the images she sees. Avoid listening to news radio while in the car with young children, and refrain from conversation about traumatic news events at the dinner table unless your child initiates it. For children ages 10 and older, reading a newspaper or a magazine is a better choice for information than television. Reading is less stimulating and allows a child to process the information at a slower rate, which will have less of a negative impact. Read (or watch) the news with your child so that you can explain and comfort when you need to. Discuss events calmly and factually, and assure your child that our leaders are doing their best to protect us and work for justice.

Give them something to do. Your child can pray for families affected by these events and for our leaders. 1 Timothy 2: 1-2 says, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." Perform some activity that will help those in need (check with your school or local government for programs in which kids can get involved).

Answer only the questions they ask. Explaining every little detail about the terrorist attacks and current military activity may evoke feelings of fear that were not there to begin with. Simply tell your child what he wants to know and leave it at that. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so, but promise to find out the answer so you can respond.

Answer honestly and refer to Scripture when appropriate. For example, a child might ask, "Why did God allow the terrorist attacks?" A good reply may be, "I don't know, but I do know that our country is praying more than ever right now and God likes our prayers. He knows people are sad. Remember Deuteronomy 31:6: 'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.'"

Reassure children that they are safe. Spend extra time together and express more physical affection than usual—hugs, cuddle time, movie nights, and walks outside can help your child feel safe and secure. Keep your routine as normal as possible. As President Bush said, our job now is to go on with our lives. Children need the familiarity of their schedules.

Seize the moment. When your children bring up the issue, process their worries, listen carefully, and respond. Pray together about any concerns. If you are fearful and anxious, take time to calm yourself before talking to your child about these issues. Your role is to model what a mature response looks like—even if you're feeling anxious and scared.