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1Children and Responding to National Disaster Information for Teachers

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  • yvonne@gsn.org
    Sep 13, 2001
      Article from the National Association of School Psychologists:


      Children and Responding to National Disaster
      Information for Teachers

      For the first time in U.S. history, American students and their
      families have been exposed - directly or via the media - to a
      horrific terrorist attack on multiple sites in our country. Unlike
      previous generations, the immediacy of this disaster is greatly
      increased by daily exposure to violence--both real and fictional.
      Real violence and tragedy is replayed on television almost as soon as
      it occurs. Sesame Street can be interrupted by a report of a sniper
      in an elementary school and news shows bring conflicts between other
      countries into American homes. Today's students also live in the
      world of Star Wars and Super Heroes. Luke Skywalker may be quickly
      relegated to the realm of fiction by adults, but for students this is
      not so easy. Youngsters have difficulty separating reality and
      fantasy. Students who believe in Santa Claus can as easily believe
      in Darth Vader and Freddie Kruger. These same students may have
      difficulty separating the realities of the attacks on the World Trade
      Center and Pentagon from the fantasy of the media.

      Many American students are likely to have some personal connection to
      the victims of the September 11th disasters. If a family member is
      not involved, a friend or a classmate's family members may be victims
      in some way. The fact that these events were not limited to one site
      further increases the fear that such an event could occur close to
      home. All students need the support of caring adults to help them
      deal with this crisis.

      Emotional Responses

      Emotional responses vary in nature and severity from student to
      student. Students' reactions are determined by their previous
      experiences, their temperament and personality, and the immediacy of
      the crisis to their own lives. Nonetheless, some commonalities exist
      in how students (and adults) feel when their lives are impacted by
      acts of terrorism.

      Fear: Fear may be the predominant reaction of many students--fear
      for the safety of relatives and friends living in the affected cities
      or fear for their own safety. Students may imagine similar attacks
      in their own communities. Their worries may seem unreasonable, but to
      them, they are quite real. Students may hear many rumors at school
      and let their imaginations run wild. They may think the worst,
      however unrealistic it may be. And unlike such disasters as floods or
      war in the Middle East, the reality of this disaster is that it
      indeed did occur in our own backyard (or frontyard) and, until now,
      was regarded as an unrealistic fear.

      To read full article please go to: