Just received from Prof. William L. Bainbridge with permission to distribute.

For Immediate Release from the National Association of School Psychologists

Helping Children Cope With Tuesday's Acts of Terrorism Tips for 
Parents and Teachers

Tuesday's tragic acts of terrorism are unprecedented in the American 
experience. Children, like many people, may be confused or frightened 
by the news and will look to adults for information and guidance on 
how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children cope 
first and foremost by establishing a sense of safety and security. As 
the nation learns more about what happened and why, adults can 
continue to help children work through their emotions and perhaps 
even use the process as a learning experience.


1. Model calm and control. Children take their emotional cues from 
the significant adults in their lives. Avoid appearing anxious or 

2. Reassure children that they are safe and so are the other 
important adults in their lives. Explain that these buildings were 
targeted for their symbolism and that schools, neighborhoods, and 
regular office buildings are
not at risk.

3. Remind them that trustworthy people are in charge. Explain that 
the government emergency workers, police, fireman, doctors, and even 
the military are helping people who are hurt and are working to 
ensure that no further
tragedies occur.

4. Let children know that it is okay to feel upset. Explain that all 
feelings are okay when a tragedy like this occurs. Let children talk 
about their feelings and help put them into perspective. Even anger 
is okay, but children may need help and patience from adults to 
assist them in expressing
these feelings appropriately.

5. Observe children's emotional state. Depending on their age, 
children may not express their concerns orally. Changes in behavior, 
appetite, and sleep patterns can also indicate a child's level of 
grief, anxiety or discomfort. Children will express their emotions 
differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel or express grief.

6. Tell children the truth. Don't try to pretend the event has not 
occurred or that it is not serious. Children are smart. They will be 
more worried if they think you are too afraid to tell them what is 

7. Stick to the facts. Don't embellish or speculate about what has 
happened and what might happen. Don't dwell on the scale or scope of 
the tragedy, particularly with young children.

8. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate. Early 
elementary school children need brief, simple information that should 
be balanced with reassurances that the daily structures of their 
lives will not change. Upper elementary and early middle school 
children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they 
truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need 
assistance separating reality from fantasy. Upper middle school and 
high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the 
causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete 
suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent 
tragedies in society. They will be more committed to doing something 
to help the victims and affeced community. For all children, 
encourage them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. Be a good 


1. Focus on your children over the next day or so. Tell them you love 
them and everything will be okay. Try to help them understand what 
has happened, keeping in mind their developmental level.

2. Make time to talk with your children. Remember if you do not talk 
to your children about this incident someone else will. Take some 
time and determine what you wish to say.

3. Stay close to your children. Your physical presence will reassure 
them and give you the opportunity monitor their reaction. Many 
children will want actual physical contact. Give plenty of hugs. Let 
them sit close to you, and make sure to take extra time at bedtime to 
cuddle and to reassure them that they are loved and safe.

4. Limit the amount of your child's television viewing of these 
events. If they must watch, watch with them for a brief time; then 
turn the set off. Don't sit mesmerized re-watching the same events 
over and over again.

5. Maintain a "normal" routine. To the extent possible stick to your 
family's normal routine for dinner, homework, chores, bedtime, etc., 
but don't be inflexible. Children may have a hard time concentrating 
on schoolwork or falling asleep at night.

6. Spend extra time reading or playing quiet games with your children 
before bed. These activities are calming, foster a sense of closeness 
and security, and reinforce a sense of normalcy. Spend more time 
tucking them in. Let them sleep with a light on if they ask for it.

7. Safeguard your children's physical health. Stress can take a 
physical toll on children as well as adults. Make sure your children 
get appropriate sleep, exercise and nutrition.

8. Consider praying or thinking hopeful thoughts for the victims and 
their families. It may be a good time to take your children to church 
or the synagogue, write a poem, or draw a picture to help your child 
express their feelings and feel that they are somehow supporting the 
victims and their families.

9. Find out what resources your school has in place to help children 
cope. Most schools are likely to be open and often are a good place 
for children to regain a sense of normalcy. Being with their friends 
and teachers can help. Schools should also have a plan for making 
counseling available to children and adults who need it.


1. Assure children that they are safe and that schools are well 
prepared to take care of all children at all times.

2. Maintain structure and stability within the schools. It would be 
best, however, not to have tests or major projects within the next 
few days.

3. Have a plan for the first few days back at school. Include school 
psychologists, counselors and crisis team members in planning the 
school's response.

4. Provide teachers and parents with information about what to say 
and do for children in school and at home.

5. Have teachers provide information directly to their students, not 
during the public address announcements.

6. Have school psychologists and counselors available to talk to 
student and staff who may need or want extra support.

7. Be aware of students who may have recently experienced a personal 
tragedy or a have personal connection to victims or their families. 
Even a child who has been to visit the Pentagon or the World Trade 
Center may feel a personal loss. Provide these students extra support 
and leniency if necessary.

8. Know what community resources are available for children who may 
need extra counseling. School psychologists can be very helpful in 
directing families to the right community resources.

9. Allow time for age appropriate classroom discussion and 
activities. Do not expect teachers to provide all of the answers. 
They should ask questions and guide the discussion, but not dominate 
it. Other activities can include art and writing projects, play 
acting, and physical games.

10. Be careful not to stereotype people or countries that might be 
home to the terrorists. Children can easily generalize negative 
statements and develop prejudice.

11. Refer children who exhibit extreme anxiety, fear or anger to 
mental health counselors in the school. Inform their parents.

12. Provide an outlet for students' desire to help. Consider making 
get well cards or sending letters to the families and survivors of 
the tragedy, or writing thank you letters to doctors, nurses, and 
other health care professionals as well as emergency rescue workers, 
firefighters and police.

13. Monitor or restrict viewing of this horrendous event as well as 
the aftermath.

For information on helping children and youth with this crisis, 
contact NASP at (301) 657-0270 or visit NASP's website at 
NASP represents 22,000 school psychologists and related professionals 
throughout the United States and abroad. NASP's mission is to promote 
educationally and psychologically healthy environments for all 
children and youth by implementing research-based, effective programs 
that prevent problems, enhance independence and promote optimal 
learning. This is accomplished through state-of-the-art research and 
training, advocacy, ongoing program evaluation, and caring 
professional service.

National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Highway, 
Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814, (301) 657-0270, Fax (301) 657-0275
Jerry P. Becker
Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL  62901-4610
Phone:  (618) 453-4241  [O]
             (618) 457-8903  [H]
Fax:      (618) 453-4244

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