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Helping Children Cope With Sept. 11 Anniversary

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2002 – Many adults will have a tough time coping with the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But children and adolescents were also affected. What should parents do to help their kids get through this period?

While the initial signs of stress in children will grow smaller or disappear as time goes by, this first anniversary may cause them to reappear. Daniel Dodgen, an official with the American Psychological Association, said parents need to understand this is normal and they should not overreact.

Speaking at the Pentagon Aug. 28 at a seminar sponsored by the Pentagon Employee Referral Service, Dodgen said it is important that children feel safe. He said parents should make plans and communicate them to their children.

"They need to know what to do in the event of an emergency," he said. Parents need to help their children develop coping skills and encourage them to share their feelings about the event.

Parents should not be surprised if children regress during times of stress. This means they might act younger than they are. This, too, is normal and will pass. Children, just like adults, may dream of the experience or have reawakened memories. They may go through anger, anxiety and sadness all over again.

As the anniversary of the attacks nears, parents should:

  • Listen to your children. Find out how they are reacting and help them come to grips with it.

  • Attend a memorial service or other community activities.

  • Create your own family ritual to observe the anniversary.

  • Monitor what your children are watching on television and set limits on the time spent in front of the tube.

  • Maintain a schedule and take care that the children receive adequate rest and nutrition.

  • Take care of themselves. Children learn by example.
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Related Articles:
Growing Past the Trauma of Sept. 11

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