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Help children cope with stressful news
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Today's headlines are enough to scare adults, but ignoring them around children may do more harm than good.
"It is good to minimize the amount of television reports children watch, but it may not be realistic to think they won't hear and be frightened by the news that has been saturating our world since Sept. 11," said Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service.
Davis said children probably know more than we realize, but their view even may be worse than the reality. By making the discussion of tragedies off-limits, adults may increase fear and confusion in young minds.
"Adults need to make themselves available and invite questions among children who need to talk about their concerns," Davis said. "Listen carefully to what they say and make sure they have not misunderstood the situation and made it a greater threat on themselves or others. You don't need to explain more than they are ready to hear, but be willing to answer their questions in terms they will understand."
Share your feelings and how you deal with them. If you are afraid, angry or frustrated, children may appreciate that they are not alone in their feelings. Reassure them and help them feel safe.
"Help children use creative outlets like writing, art and music to express their feelings," Davis said. "Positive actions can reduce stress. Find activities that will help children feel like they are doing something to help their community or world."
Davis said children often worry about people they don't even know. When they learn of people hurting, children may sincerely want to help.
"In the current crisis, contributing to the Afghani children's fund or sending letters to military troops can be very therapeutic," Davis said.
Don't assume older children and teens are processing the tragic events in the healthiest manners. These young people are often skilled at covering up troubled feelings and may not be as forthright with their concerns.
"Turn off the television and spend time with your children. It takes effort in our fast-paced society to have a quality conversation. A trip to the park or mall can serve as places where young people may let down their guard and talk about their concerns. Those discussions would be a good idea even if the tragic events of Sept. 11 had not occurred," Davis said.