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Responding to Children’s Emotional Needs During Times of Crisis

Pediatricians are often the first responders for children and families suffering emotional and psychological reactions to terrorism and other disasters. They can also help to facilitate timely referral to mental health services, as appropriate, for these children and their families. Important tips for parents and other caregivers include:

  • Take care of yourself first. Children depend on the adults around them to be and feel safe and secure.
  • Watch for unusual behavior that may suggest your child is having difficulty dealing with disturbing events.
  • Talk about the event with your child. Not talking about it makes the event seem more threatening.
  • Start by asking what your child has already heard about the events and what understanding he/she has reached. Listen for misinformation, misconceptions, and underlying fears or concerns.
  • Explain (as simply and directly as possible) the events that occurred.
  • Limit television viewing of terrorist events or other disasters, especially for younger children.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions, and answer those questions directly.
  • Don’t force the issue with your child. Instead, extend multiple invitations for discussion.
  • Recognize that your child may appear disinterested. Older children may resist invitations from parents and other caregivers to discuss events, or they may not feel ready to discuss their concerns.
  • Reassure children of the steps that are being taken to keep them safe.
  • Consider sharing your feelings about the event or crisis with your child.
  • Help your child to identify concrete actions he/she can take to help those affected by recent events.
  • If you have concerns about your child’s behavior, contact your child’s pediatrician, other primary care provider, or a qualified mental health care specialist for assistance.

For additional information, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Children, Terrorism & Disasters Web site at www.aap.org/terrorism.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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