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Terrorism and your child          Send a link to a friend

Syndicated column from The Parent Institute

[NOV. 4, 2005]  Q: It seems like terrorism is always in the news. It's difficult to escape the images on TV of cars and buses being blown up and injured people carted off on stretchers. Do you have any suggestions on how we can address the subject with our son?

A: Your son, like many adults, may be confused or frightened by the news of terrorist attacks. He may be hearing unfamiliar words in the news. He may also be confusing reality with some of the fantasy he's seen on TV and videos. With good reason, your son will be looking to you for reassurance.

The first thing you can do is to establish a sense of safety and security for your child. As news continues to be broadcast about horrible events such as these, be aware of how he is absorbing the news. Find a quiet time to listen to his anxieties. As you tuck him in to bed at night is often a good opportunity.

Here are some steps you can take to reassure your son:

  • Stick to a regular daily routine.<b> Your son will look to you during this time to see how you react to the news. If you react with alarm and make dramatic changes to your daily routine, your child may become more frightened.

  • Take your son's fears seriously. Listen carefully to what your son tells you. When possible, reassure him -- but do not lie or deny that terrible things have happened. Tell your son that security checks and other measures are being taken to protect people. Remind him that school officials, federal law enforcement officers and emergency care workers are all working together to keep people safe.

  • Talk about what your son could do in the event of a disaster. Talk to him about the following:
    • How to recognize danger -- smoke, a fire alarm, a stranger.
    • How to call for help. Can your son reach the telephone? Does he know how to call 911? Does your child know his name and address? Role-play some of these situations until he feels comfortable with the procedures.
    • Whom to go to if something should happen to family members. Make arrangements with a neighbor to help in the event of an emergency.

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  • Watch news reports and look at the newspaper together with your son. If the news about a tragedy is particularly frightening, use your judgment about limiting his access to TV coverage and newspaper photos. Monitor what he sees about the tragedy on the Internet.

  • Talk calmly about the disaster. Your son will pick up clues from you about how to respond in a difficult situation. He will feel safer if you remain calm.

  • Get additional help if necessary. Many schools have counselors to help children in times of stress. Your child's teacher is trained to talk with children about fearful situations. Your school's principal will also be a good source of assistance. And don't forget grandparents, clergy and other caring adults in your child's life.

Find more information on how to help your child from the National Association of School Psychologists at

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute.

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.

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