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Parents should reassure children |

Parents should reassure children

Jill Henry
| Wednesday, September 12, 2001 12:00 a.m

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Parents and teachers can chat online with child psychologist Tammy Hughes, a professor at Duquesne University, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday.

To access the online chat, click here .

Tuesday’s terrorist strikes against the United States have left Americans, including children, feeling confused, vulnerable and afraid.

But mental health professionals are calling upon parents to set their feelings of anxiety aside to comfort their children.

‘It’s difficult for parents to understand what’s going on, and it’s extremely difficult for children,’ said Dana Jornsay-Hester, community education coordinator for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

‘The most important thing is to reassure your kids that they are safe,’ she said.

‘What your children need to know most is that you will listen to their concerns and that you, the parent, are there to keep them safe,’ Jornsay-Hester said.

‘Listen to your child’s fears, but don’t belittle them. Comfort your child,’ she said.

If your child asks questions about the attack, answer them honestly.

‘You have to be honest with your child, but don’t go into all of the details,’ said Pete DeLouis, an Oakmont family psychologist.

‘Parents need to help their children understand what’s going on because the kids will hear about it on television and out in public,’ DeLouis said. ‘You don’t want your child to develop an anxiety disorder or depression – you have to put the events in perspective and in terms your child will understand.’

‘Talk to your child in honest, age-appropriate terms,’ said Tammy Hughes, a professor at Duquesne University School of Psychology. ‘While you don’t want to give your 5-year-old the gruesome details, you should assure the child that he’ll be safe.’

Hughes suggests telling young children that there was a fire and a plane crash, and that some people were hurt.

‘There’s no need to go into the overseas conflict with young children,’ she said. ‘Teens will more than likely feel the societal and global despair.’

Hughes said it is important for parents to ‘interpret what’s happening on the news’ for their children.

Jornsay-Hester said children should have limited exposure to media coverage of the attacks.

‘Shield them from the barrage of news reports,’ she said. ‘Preschool and elementary age children don’t need to see replays over and over. Young children might think it’s happening every time they see (the plane crashes) on television.’

If parents feel compelled to watch television coverage of the terrorist attacks, they should distract their children, officials said.

‘Put one of their favorite tapes on in another room, or encourage them to play outside,’ Jornsay-Hester said.

If a child becomes emotionally distraught about the attacks, Hughes suggested talking to a school counselor, social worker or psychologist.

Family members or friends of victims should notify crisis services, such as the Red Cross, she said.

DeLouis said adults should try to get their lives back to normal as soon as possible.

‘No matter how big and strong our country is, you can’t stop every terrorist attempt, but you can’t dwell on that,’ he said. ‘Once you get back into your usual routine, the anxiety will start to fade.’

Jill Henry can be reached at
Contributing: Staff writer Chuck Biedka.

Categories: News
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