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September 11, 2001 12:11pm
Calmness and Age-Appropriate Conversation Recommended When Speaking with Youngsters
Source: Loyola University Health System
by: Company Press Release

(MAYWOOD, IL) -- Adults must maintain a sense of calm when speaking with children about today's tragic events in New York and Washington, D.C., while also recognizing a child's level of understanding and sensitivities to emotional events, says Kim Dell'Angela, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and pediatric psychologist at the Ronald McDonald Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center.

``Children sense a parent's agitation and often will react to it,'' said Dell'Angela. ``Naturally, children will have an interest in the news events that are happening, so it's extremely important that adults target the children's level of understanding and be aware of their own sensitivities and sensibilities. Some children are very interested in details; others may get upset and need to be shielded from too much information,'' she said.

Other suggestions Dell'Angela offers include:

* Assure children that they are safe. Children focus on their immediate well-being and the safety of their loved ones. If, for example, a family member lives in New York or is an airline employee, reassure the child with any information you can provide.

* Acknowledge that a bad thing has happened and that people have been hurt, but keep your words short and sentences brief.

* Only present the facts. Do not speculate on the cause or people responsible. Comparing the current issue to past tragedies will only confuse children, especially young children.

* Censor and closely monitor media exposure. Younger children will be upset by recurring images of the tragedy on television. Limit their exposure to the media. Older children may want more details to help process their understanding of the events.

* Maintain a sense of normalcy. Do what you can to keep your family's schedule as normal as possible, such as having family meals at their regular times. However, take time to answer the questions that arise and be flexible if your child is particularly upset and may need to suspend usual activities. This will likely be temporary.

* Suggest age-appropriate activities to help children feel that they can contribute. Younger children can draw a picture or say a prayer; older kids can write letters of support to the victims and their families or collect money for related charities.

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