September 21, 2001

Questions & Answers

Helping Children Cope with Tragedy

Advice from Experts

· Should I share my feelings and beliefs with kids about what happened?

Yes, but again the emphasis in the conversations should be mostly on what the kids are thinking and feeling (and helping them feel safe). It's okay to briefly share with kids your emotions about the events as this might help them feel more free to discuss their feelings.

Chris Kaufman, Ph.D., Lead Psychologist, Portland Public Schools, Portland, Maine

 

· Is there anything else I can do to help kids cope with what is happening?

Younger children who have a difficult time talking about what's on their minds may benefit from making a drawing that shows how they feel about what happened. Older kids may benefit from activities that help them feel that they're making the situation better in some way (for example, writing a condolence letter to someone involved in the tragedy).

Chris Kaufman, Ph.D., Lead Psychologist, Portland Public Schools, Portland, Maine

 

· What can I say that is both comforting and reassuring?

Just by listening to children you are providing reassurance. By your ability to hear calmly, even their wildest concerns, you communicate that their fears are not too frightening to deal with. You can also help children find a way to step out of their position of powerlessness. You can tell them that their concerns are quite healthy because caring about others is the first step toward making the world a safer place. Engage them in a conversation about the way in which their school is trying to help.

Susan Jones, Sheldon, Berman, Linda Lantieri and Sam Diener, Educators for Social Responsibility

 

· How can people be so mean and hateful?

Turn this question back to kids to give them control over this issue. Also, bring the question down to a community level. Ask kids, why are people sometimes mean at school? What do we do to promote kindness? Remind kids that there aren't right or wrong answers.

Marissa Rosoff, Coordinator of School Safety, Burbank Unified School District, Burbank, California

 

· Is it safe to fly in airplanes?

Tell children that the government and other agencies are working to review safety procedures. There will be a lot of changes to make sure that all forms of public transportation, including airplanes, trains and buses, become safer.

Marissa Rosoff, Coordinator of School Safety, Burbank Unified School District, Burbank, California

 

· Is it good to talk about these issues with kids?

Yes, and the idea is to be timely. It's critical to listen very carefully to what kids are saying and validate their concerns. The most important thing to do is to listen. It's not necessary to generate a discussion every single day. It will depend on students' level of interest and/or anxiety.

Marissa Rosoff, Coordinator of School Safety, Burbank Unified School District, Burbank, California

 

· How do we talk about violent death?

Acknowldege it, but it's not helpful to go into detail. Refer kids who are focusing on violence to school psychologists, counselors or other support personnel.

Marissa Rosoff, Coordinator of School Safety at the Burbank Unified School District, Burbank, California

Return to the Frontpage