Tips for helping children in the wake of terrorism
(CNN) -- A U.S. Senate subcommittee recently began to grapple with what effects the terrorist attacks have had on the nation's children, looking at the events' psychological and physical impacts.
"Twenty percent of our population is made up of children, yet children are 100 percent of our future," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, who chairs the Subcommittee on Children and Families.
The following tips, courtesy of the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, address the psychological and physical needs of the nation's children.
APA suggestions for helping children cope with terrorism
1. Encourage children to say how they are feeling about the event.
2. Ask children what they have seen, heard or experienced.
3. Assure children that their parents are taking care of them and will continue to help them deal with anything that makes them feel afraid.
4. Help children recognize when they have shown courage in meeting a new, scary situation and accomplished a goal despite hardship or barriers. Instill in them a sense of empowerment.
5. Let children know that institutions of democracy are still in place and our government is intact.
6. Know that it is possible for children to experience vicariously the trauma of the terrorist attacks (watching TV coverage, overhearing adult conversations).
Children may have difficulty sleeping or doing other routine activities for a time, according to Bernard S. Arons, director of the Center for Mental Health Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Signs that may signal an assessment is necessary:
Persistent sleep problems
Unwillingness/refusal to go to school
Children are not only more vulnerable psychologically to the attacks, but also physically, Dodd said. They are more susceptible to biological or chemical agents because they breathe more times per minute and their skin is thinner than adults, he said.
American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations for preparing to meet the needs of children during and after a disaster
The American Academy of Pediatrics made the following recommendations to the subcommittee to help ensure that emergency personnel would be prepared to meet the medical, psychosocial and logistical needs of children during and after a disaster.
Ensure ambulances and emergency departments have child-size equipment such as oxygen masks, IV tubes and neck braces.
Provide additional training to health-care professionals who look after children, and help them recognize symptoms of biological or chemical agents in children.
Have facilities that offer school child care and after-school care prepare disaster plans.
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