Helping Kids Through a National Crisis

A pastoral psychotherapist advises parents on how to deal with their child's immediate fears.

Beliefnet columnist Jean G. Fitzpatrick is a pastoral psychotherapist and the author of 'Small Wonder: How to Answer Your Child's Impossible Questions About Life.' We spoke with her today about how to deal with children's fears and questions in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

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In times of national crisis, many of us "keep vigil" in front of the television. News shows often repeat the same scenes, such as the one with the second plane flying into the south tower of the World Trade Center and the subsequent explosion. As adults we may watch scenes like this repeatedly, almost to help the reality sink in. But if you have a child in the room, this can be overwhelming. It's especially a good idea not to play graphic television scenes at your child's bedtime.

Even if it were possible, there is no need to put on a stoic front and try to hide all your feelings. Tears about tragedy show our child that we feel connected to others, that we care.

Nonetheless, it's important not to elaborate upon your fears, imagining out loud, in the presence of your child, all the other terrible things that could happen. You may worry that your town hall or the school will be blown up, but keep this anxiety to yourself.

Share your grief and fear with other adults. You may wish to talk to a friend or a clergyperson. Our church organized a prayer vigil for tonight. It's good to be gathered together with other people. The comforting presence of others bears witness to our belief in and desire for a better world. The chance to hug or just stand together with others can do a great deal more than wordy explanations.

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