1. Listen to your child! Ask what they know about the event and find out what their perceptions are. Donít jump to conclusions. Parents should be prepared for children to talk sporadically about the event, spending small segments of time concentrating on particular aspects of the tragedy.

2. Reassure the child that their feelings are normal. Do not try to change their feelings or say they should not feel that way. Let them know that you will not judge, tease or make fun of them about what they tell you.

3. Allow children to express feelings and share yours with them if and when appropriate. Address the irrationality and suddenness of the event or disaster. Children and adults need their feelings validated. It may be useful to have children paint, draw or write about the event.

4. Reassure children that they are safe and loved and that people are doing everything possible to make this a safer world (give examples of police, firefighters, rescuers, nurses, doctors, etc. who may be on TV or in communities helping).

5. Review family safety procedures. If the family has none take this time to establish new ones.

6. Be honest and provide accurate facts about the event. Children want as much factual information as possible and should be allowed to discuss their own theories about what happened in order for them to begin to master the trauma or to reassert control over their environment.

7. Issues of death should be addressed concretely and factually.

8. Donít transfer your own fears to your children. Respond to safety issues with calm and reassurance. Often parentsí despair interferes with a childís ability to heal.

9. Help children return to a normal routine as soon as possible.

10. Spend extra time with each child doing something fun or relaxing and have a family time everyday.

11. Remember the importance of touch and hugs.

12. Parents should be prepared to tolerate regressive behaviors and accept signs of aggression and anger especially in the early phases after the traumatic event.

13. Make sure all caregivers in the childís life such as teacher, babysitters, daycare providers, friends, and neighbors are aware of the impact of the event on the child.

14. Watch for signs of repetitive play or reenactments of the event. (These are normal reactions and can be addressed by trained trauma and mental health specialists).

15. Praise and recognize responsible behavior.

16. Connect the child and family to support groups, resources, child trauma specialists or other helpful community resources that can:

17. Talk in hopeful terms about the future. This can help a child rebuild trust and faith in his own future and the world.

Sources: National Organization for Victim Assistance, Jayne Crisp, CTS, CVAS, Carol Hacker, Ph.D., CTS


Talking to Children about Terrorism

Age appropriate responses for parents and others

By Judy Myers-Walls

Child Development Specialist

Purdue Extension

While children may not be directly affected by the tragic events surrounding

the terrorist attack on America, they will have questions and concerns about

what it means for their world.

While news reports were not intended to alarm children, it is impossible to

protect or shield children from knowledge of an event of this size. They

have heard or seen media reports and adults discussing the issue, and they

can tell that the adults around them are concerned and upset. School

evacuations and lockdowns will add to their level of concern and it is

critical that the adults in their lives - parents, teachers, and guardians -

help children deal with and process this event.


Young children. Preschool children will be very confused by these events.

Many young children do not know how to tell if something happened to them or

to other people. They will be very sensitive to what adults are feeling.

Young children can be an important asset to adults at this time, too,

however. Holding and hugging young children can be reassuring to both the

adults and the children.


Elementary school children. Some school-age children will want to know

explanations of the events and the factors involved. It is important to

assess each child's level of understanding to see if he or she is capable of

understanding the difference between the media reports and the entertainment

shows they're used to watching. Help school-age children understand where

the attacks occurred and where those cities are in relation to your

location. They will benefit from expressing their ideas in various forms,

such as art, letters, and music and with puppets. They also would benefit

from taking some kind of action, such as writing letters, preparing a

display for the community, or collecting items to help survivors.


Adolescents. Adolescents will want more details and will have more skills

and coping strategies to deal with the event, but they still will not deal

with it the same way that adults do. Because adolescents tend to look at the

world in a black-and-white fashion, they may want to know who the bad guys

are and who the good guys are. It would be helpful to guide them toward

separating the evil of the event from the value of people. Adolescents could

easily take the emotions of the event as a call to paint entire groups as

enemies or evil. They may be able to understand that the concerns of groups

may be legitimate, but that using violence - whether it is a fist, a bomb,

or an airplane - is never the best way to deal with frustration or anger.


Young Adults. While people in this age group often feel invulnerable, events

this traumatic and close to home may shake their certainty. Young adults

will be more knowledgeable than children about the nature of the attacks and

the consequences, and their fears will be more realistic. Their methods of

coping with those fears may not be. Young adults tend to focus on the cause

and may want to take some kind of action, such as getting in a car and

driving to a demonstration. Older adults will need to help them keep this in

perspective and guide them to positive outlets such as giving blood,

collecting money for victims, or attending a vigil or memorial service. They

may also want to learn more about geopolitics and world history.

September 2001 from the Purdue Extension website, reprinted with permission.

For more information go to



Books for Children Experiencing a Loss or Trauma

The Tree that Survived the Winter, Mary Fahy, Paulist Press. 1989 (All ages through adult)

Take Time to Relax! Nancy Carlson, Puffin Books, 1991. ISBN # 0-14-054242-6. Ask for soft cover edition.

The Knight Who Was Afraid of the Dark, Barbara Shook Hazen, Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 0-8037-0667-7. Ask for soft cover.

Thereís Something in My Attic by Mercer Mayer, Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN # 0-8037-0414-3. Ask for soft cover edition.

Thereís a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer, Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN #. 0-8037-8574-7.

I Hear a Noise by Diane Goode, Dutton Childrenís Books (Puffin Unicorn Book), NY. 1988. ISBN # 0-525-44884-5.

When Someone Very Special Dies, Marge Heegaard. Woodland Press, 1988, ISBN#0-96-20502-0-2.

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death, Laurie Krasny Brown and Mark Brown, Little Brown and Company, 1996.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story for All Ages. Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D. 1982. SLACK Inc. ISBN# 0-943432-89-8, or Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 0-8050-1064-5.

Sunshine: More Meditations for Children, Maureen Garth, Collins Dove, 1994. ISBN 1-86371-406-5.

Compiled by Jayne Crisp, CTS, CVAS. 1999., Call 864-294-0761 for additional information on child trauma.



Experience of an unusual event that would markedly distress anyone.

Re experiencing Phenomena

Psychological numbing/avoidance

Increased Arousal

Robert S. Pynoos, Kathi Nader, Children Exposed to Community Violence.




(9/01)  A terrorist attack with conventional weapons such as firearms, explosives or incendiary devices in the United States remains possible, though unlikely.


Learn about the nature of terrorism.

Learn about the different types of terrorist weapons including explosives, kidnappings, hijackings, arson, and shootings.

Prepare to deal with a terrorist incident by adapting many of the same techniques used to prepare for other crises.

Preparing for a Building Explosion
The use of explosives by terrorists can result in collapsed buildings and fires. People who live or work in a multi-level building can do the following:


Bomb Threats
If you receive a bomb threat, get as much information from the caller as possible. Keep the caller on the line and record everything that is said. Notify the police and the building management.

After you've been notified of a bomb threat, do not touch any suspicious packages. Clear the area around the suspicious package and notify the police immediately. In evacuating a building, avoid standing in front of windows or other potentially hazardous areas. Do not restrict sidewalk or streets to be used by emergency officials.


In a building explosion, get out of the building as quickly and calmly as possible.

If items are falling off of bookshelves or from the ceiling, get under a sturdy table or desk.If there is a fire.


If you are trapped in debris.

Assisting Victims

Chemical Agents
Chemical agents are poisonous gases, liquids or solids that have toxic effects on people, animals or plants. Most chemical agents cause serious injuries or death.

Severity of injuries depends on the type and amount of the chemical agent used, and the duration of exposure.

Were a chemical agent attack to occur, authorities would instruct citizens to either seek shelter where they are and seal the premises or evacuate immediately. Exposure to chemical agents can be fatal. Leaving the shelter to rescue or assist victims can be a deadly decision. There is no assistance that the untrained can offer that would likely be of any value to the victims of chemical agents.

Biological Agents
Biological agents are organisms or toxins that have illness-producing effects on people, livestock and crops.

Because biological agents cannot necessarily be detected and may take time to grow and cause a disease, it is almost impossible to know that a biological attack has occurred. If government officials become aware of a biological attack through an informant or warning by terrorists, they would most likely instruct citizens to either seek shelter where they are and seal the premises or evacuate immediately.

A person affected by a biological agent requires the immediate attention of professional medical personnel. Some agents are contagious, and victims may need to be quarantined. Also, some medical facilities may not receive victims for fear of contaminating the hospital population.


Links to other resources on children, trauma and crises: