Talking With Your Kids About Travel Tragedies
In the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks,
parents face the difficult task of trying to explain the
unexplainable to their children. For parents who travel, giving
explanations can seem even more challenging given the fact that
commercial airliners were used as a tool for terror.
the case for me yesterday, as my innocent seven-year-old daughter
wondered why Daddy (an airline pilot) was not coming home as
planned. He, like thousands of other air travelers, is stranded and
awaiting news of when he can return. In typical kid-fashion,
questions came flooding out. Was Daddy on the plane? Were there kids
on the planes? Are there bad men on all planes? I answered her
questions cautiously, but truthfully.
What to Say and
It's unwise to let young children or adolescents view
footage of traumatic events repeatedly as this can be traumatizing.
Furthermore, children and adolescents should not watch these events
Although it might be easy to turn off the television,
it is not easy for parents to turn off the questions that children
have. When talking with your children about terrorism, The National
Mental Health Association (NMHA) recommends the following:
Whatever the child’s age, it is important that
you be open about the consequences for your family, and that you
encourage him or her to talk about it.
- Because children need comforting and frequent reassurance that
they’re safe, make sure they get it.
- Be honest and open about the disaster.
- Encourage children to express their feelings through talking,
drawing, or playing.
- Try to maintain your daily routines as much as
What to Watch
NMHA warns parents to watch for signs of stress,
which may include:
With pre-school age children, behavior such
as bedwetting, thumb sucking, baby talk, or a fear of sleeping may
intensify or reappear in children who had previously outgrown it.
Children may complain of stomach cramps or headaches, and be
reluctant to go to school. Adolescent children may express their
fear through acting out, regressing to younger habits, or engaging
in substance abuse. It is important for parents to remember that
these children are not acting up to be "bad," but because they are
- Not sleeping
- Not eating
- Fighting and/or crying
- Reverting to childish behavior
Give your children extra attention, and most of all,
hugs. Times of tragedy are times for giving and receiving
reassurance, and to focus on the all important emotional healing
Parents can access
the following websites for more information on how to help their
National Mental Health
American Academy of Pediatrics
National Association of
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