University of Illinois Extension

Talking About Terrorism

Aaron Ebata, Family Life Specialist

The destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon on September 11 will certainly be in the news for a long time. As we watch the news and talk to others about the latest events, our children notice that something is going on.

Young children - under the age of 7 or 8 - may be disturbed when they see scenes of destruction on television or when they listen in on adult conversations.

Children will notice that things may be unusual as you react to the unfolding events. Subtle changes in your moods and behaviors can affect children, especially if they see reactions in you that they have not seen before.

Some children, especially young children, might react to these changes with fear and anxiety. They may become more clinging or have trouble with separation. Others might have some difficulty at bedtime. When necessary, be prepared to spend extra time with the children.

Older children may want to talk about the continuing developments and what they might mean. Although it might be important to allow older children to participate in viewing and talking about the news, it is wise to limit young children's exposure to TV news. Instead, reestablish routines and activities that are normal for them.

Reassure your grandchildren about their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. Also try to explain why people are reacting the way they are.

In the weeks and months ahead, it will be a challenge for all of us to remind our children and ourselves that, as a nation, we value peace.