Helping Children Cope After a Crisis:

Whenever a national tragedy occurs, such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters, children, like many people, may be confused or frightened. Most likely they will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children cope first and foremost by establishing a sense of safety and security. As more information becomes available, adults can continue to help children work through their emotions and perhaps even use the process as a learning experience.

Tips for Parents and Teachers:

Our society has been plagued by a number of traumatic events in recent years—schoolyard shootings, the Oklahoma City bombing, floods and tornadoes, and the terrorist attacks of September 2001. When a large-scale tragedy occurs, it can cause strong and deeply felt reactions in adults and children. How adults express their emotions will influence the reactions of children and youth. Parents and teachers can help youngsters manage their feelings by both modeling healthy coping strategies themselves and closely monitoring their own emotional state and that of the children in their care.

Common Reactions to Trauma

It is not uncommon to feel any or all of the following:

  • Shock/disbelief

  • Fear

  • Guilt

  • Grief

  • Confusion

  • Shame/loss

  • Anger

These reactions are often closely linked and can be difficult to separate, (e.g., where does grief end and outrage begin). Children, in particular, may have trouble understanding and talking about their feelings. Emotional reactions take place over a period of time and may not happen in any particular order. They can affect our behavior, our ability to function, and our overall sense of well-being. The intensity and ways we express our reactions will vary depending on our personal experience, general mental health, other stress factors in our lives, our coping style, our ability to self-monitor our emotional state, and our support network. This is true for both adults and children. Children of all ages may need guidance and support from the significant adults in their lives (parents, teachers, coaches, etc.) as they work through their thoughts and emotional reactions to the event.

Anger: A Natural Reaction

For many people, adults and children alike, anger will be a natural extension of other emotions because it is a defensive mechanism that makes us feel more in control. As well, anger with the perpetrators of these horrible acts is, in many ways, justified. The desire to “retaliate” can be strong—but quite harmful if not redirected to a positive outlet. In some situations, a significant factor in the expression of anger is the lack of a concrete “enemy” on which to focus our feelings. As long as there is doubt about the identity of the perpetrators and a lack of closure, or when the trauma is a natural disaster, anger and other strong emotions have no specific target. Such situations can lead to more inappropriate expressions. Adults must ensure that children do not “take out” their anger in inappropriate ways, such as lashing out at classmates or neighbors who might be unfairly associated with the perpetrators of violence because of their ethnicity or other affiliations. The key is to direct anger and other strong emotions in socially and psychologically healthy ways.

Recognizing Anger

The first step in helping children manage their anger is getting your anger under control. Be aware of cues in your own behavior. If necessary, ask someone you trust (a family member, friend or colleague) to give you feedback on your anger reaction. Observe the behavior of other adults around you and your child(ren) and be supportive if they show signs of increased anger.

Signs of Anger in Adults

  • Short temper/impatience.

  • Sleep problems.

  • Eating problems.

  • Restlessness and agitation.

  • Hitting and slamming objects, pets, or people.

  • Desire to inflict harm.

  • Verbal outbursts toward family, friends, or fellow workers.

  • A sense of losing control over your life.

  • Poor concentration or attention span.

  • Obsessing about the event.

  • Physical health affected; increase in blood pressure, dizzy, headaches, heart rate elevated, clenched jaw, knot in the stomach, and tight muscles, etc.

  • You feel life should be fair, but it is not; and things are not how you want them to be.

Signs of Anger in Children

  • Behavioral outbursts, many times without an obvious cause.

  • Sleep problems.

  • Fights at school or home.

  • Physical attacks on others or animals, even among pre-schoolers.

  • Disobedience from otherwise well behaved child(ren).

  • Child state he/she is really sad and does not know why.

  • Complaints of stomachaches and headaches; or vague aches and pains.

  • Other reactions similar to those of adults.

Dealing with Anger

Some people have more problems than others dealing with anger. They either try to deny or ignore their feelings and keep them inside, or overreact and “blow-up.” These negative coping strategies can be physically and emotionally unhealthy. Pretending we don’t feel badly can have long-term affects that may eventually cause us to “lose it.” Conversely, psychological research shows that acting out your anger will not relieve it, but instead will make it more intense. We can learn to control or diffuse anger by how we think about the event or people involved and by finding other ways to regain our sense of control and security. Anger can also mask other emotions, such as grief, loss, or fear. It is important to address these related emotions as a way to deal with angry feelings.

Controlling Your Anger

  • Admit you are angry.

  • Recognize this is a common reaction to an overwhelming event. It is how you control and manage your reaction that makes the difference.

  • Try to identify the related emotions that may be fueling your anger, (e.g., sorrow, fear.)

  • Find appropriate outlets for these related and equally important emotions, (e.g., talk with family members or friends, seek grief counseling, get involved in activities to help victims, etc.)

  • Understand that it not just the actual event that drives your anger, but how you think about it.

  • Develop a “positive” outlook and look for what can be done to help rather than harm.

  • Stop, take a deep breath, visualize something peaceful or enjoyable, and try to relax for a few minutes.

  • Avoid/decrease negative ways to cope, such as misuse of alcohol or drugs.

  • Find an acceptable outlet, such as exercise, getting involved with your favorite hobby, sports.

  • Distract yourself from continuing to think about the event -- call a friend, go to a movie.

  • Keep a sense of humor.

  • Turn off the TV and radio; play your favorite music.

  • Keep to your daily routines.

  • Consult your doctor or a mental health specialist if your reactions continue to intensify, or you feel like doing harm to yourself or others.

  • If you are seeing a mental health professional, be sure to share your angry feelings with him or her.

Helping Children Control Anger:

  • Realize they will imitate your responses and reactions.

  • Let them understand anger is a normal emotion under these circumstances that can even include feelings of revenge. However, acting out anger, hurting others, and uncontrolled anger is not okay.

  • Answer their questions honestly and openly; but always consider their developmental age.

  • Make family time to talk to the child(ren) about their reaction to the events.

  • Have child(ren) come up with ideas on how to help those who have been injured, left homeless, or otherwise effected by the tragedy.

  • Teach them to stop, take a deep breath, and imagine a restful scene or enjoyable activity for a few minutes as a way to relax.

  • Turn off the TV and make sure violence in the media is restricted or monitored.

  • Try to understand and encourage children to talk about their fears/sense of loss.

  • Try to help them see how they would feel if someone hurt, yelled at, or hit them.

  • Sports, exercise, or other physical activity can be quite helpful.

  • Be flexible in discipline and monitor your reactions to their misbehaviors.

  • Seek mental health or physician consultation if these reactions do not clear up after 30 days.

  • Keep family and school routines; get back to a normal life schedule as soon as possible.

  • If age permits, get the child involved in volunteer work or community service, such as the Red Cross or Animal Shelter, where a child can feel that he/she is making a difference.

Warning Signs of Serious Emotional Trauma:

While strong emotional reactions to tragic events are normal, most will fade over the following weeks and most children soon will be able to resume normal activities with minimal displays of anger or anxiety. However, if any of the following symptoms or behaviors continue beyond a few weeks, or if any of these symptoms are exhibited to such a degree that it severely impacts the child’s ability to participate in school or home activities, parents and teachers should seek mental health services for evaluation and possible treatment.

  • Disruption in peer relationships (little or no interactions with friends, significant increase in conflict with classmates or friend).

  • Strained family relationships (high degree of misbehavior, lashing out against family members, refusal to participate in normal family routines).

  • Significant decrease in school performance.

  • Ongoing physical complaints with no apparent cause.

  • Use of chemicals, alcohol (or increase in comparison to previous behavior).

  • Repeated nightmares and reporting strong fears of death, violence, etc.

  • Repetitive play re-enacting the traumatic events.

  • Low self esteem, negative talk about self (if this was not apparent prior to the trauma).

  • General lack of energy and lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities.

Parents and teachers can help children overcome traumatic effects of a tragedy or disaster and use the process as an opportunity to teach them how to cope more effectively and deal with new challenges. (Interestingly, the Chinese sign for “crisis” is two symbols – “Danger” and “Opportunity.”) Depending on the scope of the event, the process may take time and patience and the willingness to reach out to friends, neighbors, and co-workers to lend mutual support.


  1. Focus on your children over the week following the tragedy. Tell them you love them and everything will be okay. Try to help them understand what has happened, keeping in mind their developmental level.

  2. Make time to talk with your children. Remember if you do not talk to your children about this incident someone else will. Take some time and determine what you wish to say.

  3. Stay close to your children. Your physical presence will reassure them and give you the opportunity to monitor their reaction. Many children will want actual physical contact. Give plenty of hugs. Let them sit close to you, and make sure to take extra time at bedtime to cuddle and to reassure them that they are loved and safe.

  4. Limit your child’s television viewing of these events. If they must watch, watch with them for a brief time; then turn the set off. Don’t sit mesmerized re-watching the same events over and over again.

  5. Maintain a “normal” routine. To the extent possible stick to your family’s normal routine for dinner, homework, chores, bedtime, etc., but don’t be inflexible. Children may have a hard time concentrating on schoolwork or falling asleep at night.

  6. Spend extra time reading or playing quiet games with your children before bed. These activities are calming, foster a sense of closeness and security, and reinforce a sense of normalcy. Spend more time tucking them in. Let them sleep with a light on if they ask for it.

  7. Safeguard your children’s physical health. Stress can take a physical toll on children as well as adults. Make sure your children get appropriate sleep, exercise, and nutrition.

  8. Consider thinking hopeful thoughts for the victims and their families. It may be a good time to take your children to your place of worship, write a poem, or draw a picture to help your child express their feelings and feel that they are somehow supporting the victims and their families.

  9. Check in with a school counselor if needed. Most schools are likely to be open and often are a good place for children to regain a sense of normalcy. Being with their friends and teachers can help.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------*Important for all adults to know:

  1. Model calm and control. Children take their emotional cues from the significant adults in their lives. Avoid appearing anxious or frightened.

  2. Reassure children that they are safe and (if true) so are the other important adults in their lives. Depending on the situation, point out factors that help insure their immediate safety and that of their community.

  3. Remind them that trustworthy people are in charge. Explain that the government emergency workers, police, firefighters, doctors, and the military are helping people who are hurt and are working to ensure that no further tragedies occur.

  4. Let children know that it is okay to feel upset. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy like this occurs. Let children talk about their feelings and help put them into perspective. Even anger is okay, but children may need help and patience from adults to assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.

  5. Observe children’s emotional state. Depending on their age, children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can also indicate a child’s level of grief, anxiety or discomfort. Children will express their emotions differently. There is no right or wrong way to feel or express grief.

  6. Look for children at greater risk. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Be particularly observant for those who may be at risk of suicide. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.

  7. Tell children the truth. Don’t try to pretend the event has not occurred or that it is not serious. Children are smart. They will be more worried if they think you are too afraid to tell them what is happening.

  8. Stick to the facts. Don’t embellish or speculate about what has happened and what might happen. Don’t dwell on the scale or scope of the tragedy, particularly with young children.

  9. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate. Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that the daily structures of their lives will not change. Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence and threats to safety in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. They will be more committed to doing something to help the victims and affected community. For all children, encourage them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. Be a good listener!

  10. Monitor your own stress level. Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief, and anger. Talking to friends, family members, religious leaders, and mental health counselors can help. It is okay to let your children know that you are sad, but that you believe things will get better. You will be better able to support your children if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner. Get appropriate sleep, nutrition, and exercise.

Planning for the Future:

College Preparation in Middle School

In general, you don’t need to worry too much about college when you are in middle school. Parents who aggressively try to mold their 13-year-olds into Harvard material may do more harm than good.

Nevertheless, although your middle school grades and activities won't appear on your college application, you can use seventh and eighth grades to set yourself up to have the strongest record possible in high school. This list outlines some possible strategies.

1. Work on Good Study Habits

Middle school grades don't matter for college admissions, so this is a low-risk time to work on good time-management and study skills. Think about it -- if you don't learn how to be a good student until your junior year, you'll be haunted by those freshman and sophomore grades when you apply to college.

2. Explore Several Extracurricular Activities

When you apply to college, you should be able to demonstrate depth and leadership in one or two extracurricular areas. Use middle school to figure out what you most enjoy –- is it music, drama, government, church, juggling, business, athletics? By figuring out your true passions in middle school, you can better focus on developing leadership skills and expertise in high school.

3. Read a Lot

This advice is important for 7th through 12th grades. The more you read, the stronger your verbal, writing and critical thinking abilities will be. Reading beyond your homework will help you do well in high school, on the ACT and SAT, and in college. Whether you’re reading Harry Potter or Moby Dick, you’ll be improving your vocabulary, training your ear to recognize strong language, and introducing yourself to new ideas.

4. Work on Foreign Language Skills

Most competitive colleges want to see strength in a foreign language. The earlier you build those skills, the better. Also, the more years of a language you take, the better.

5. Take Challenging Courses

If you have options such as a math track that will eventually end in calculus, choose the ambitious route. When senior year rolls around, you will want to have taken the most challenging courses available at your school. The tracking for those courses often begins in middle school (or earlier). Position yourself so that you can take full advantage of whatever AP courses and upper-level math, science, and language courses your school offers.

6. Get Up to Speed

If you find that your skills in an area such as math or science aren't what they should be, middle school is a wise time to seek out extra help and tutoring. If you can improve your academic strengths in middle school, you'll be positioned to earn better grades when it really begins to matter -- in 9th grade.

7. Explore and Enjoy

Always keep in mind that your middle school record doesn't appear on your college application. You shouldn't stress about college in 7th or 8th grade. Your parents shouldn't stress about college either. This is not the time to be calling the admissions office at Yale. Instead, use these years to explore new things, discover what subjects and activities really excite you, and figure out any bad study habits you may have developed.


College/Career Planning Resources


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  1. knowhow2go -

  1. greatschools -


Parents College Prep Guide

adapted from

By GreatSchools Staff

Most U.S. parents expect their kids to go to college, and most students have the same goal. But they are not necessarily taking the practical steps to get there.

A national survey released this year by Harris Interactive found that while 92% of seventh- and eighth-graders said they were likely to attend college, 68% said they had little or no information about which classes to take to prepare for it.

Counselors, colleges and organizations like the National Association for College Admission Counseling and ACT emphasize that parents should start planning for college no later than middle school. Their reasoning is simple:

  • Your child needs strong preparation in middle school to take the high school classes that colleges require.

  • You need to do your homework to make college affordable for your family. There are lots of options to cut college costs — scholarships, low-interest loans, work-study, spending the first two years at a community college — but it takes time to research them and get the information you need to meet application deadlines.

College planning is important for all families, whether parents attended college or not. Rose Fabiszak, director of the College Board's program called College Ed, notes, "The college process has changed, even from four years ago - the forms have changed, there are Web sites where your child can take a virtual tour of a college."

Here are seven steps you can take to jumpstart your planning:

One: Talk about college

As a parent, your expectations have a huge influence on what your child expects of herself, even if she doesn't want you to know it. You can help her envision her future at a time when the social anxieties and opportunities of middle school loom larger than life after high school. This doesn't mean having an "I expect you to go to Harvard" conversation. Talk to your child about her interests, how they might translate into a college major and career.

There are resources on the Web to help you start exploring careers together with your child and get the conversation going.

It's not too early for you and your child to visit a college so she can begin to picture herself there. Fabiszak tells the story of her own daughter's early visits to an out-of-state college that sounded like a great match. It wasn't. The visit helped Fabiszak's daughter realize she wanted to stay closer to home, which she did, commuting to a college in her city.

"You have to find a place that's comfortable," Fabiszak said. "She changed her mind. Because we encouraged her early, she had a chance to see what fit."

Two: Make the school your partner

Middle school is the time parents tend to be less involved, but it's the very time your child needs encouragement and guidance. Meet your child's teachers, if you haven't already done so, and make it clear that you want to be kept up to date about any changes in your child's work or behavior. Go over your child's standardized test results with the counselor to identify strengths and weaknesses. Talk to the counselor about your child's interests to see if there are electives and extracurricular activities that will help him develop his talents. If your child needs extra help or more challenging assignments in a subject, talk to the counselor about how to arrange it.

"Be vocal about what your school needs," Fabiszak advises. "You should feel comfortable calling up the school to say 'I think my son needs extra help because he's failing math,' or 'Do you have more rigorous coursework for my daughter who's doing well in English?'"

Three: Get very involved in your child's choice of classes

The research is clear: Kids who take algebra by the eighth grade and geometry by ninth grade are much more likely to go to college than those who don't. These math classes are required to take more advanced math classes in high school and to take science classes like chemistry and physics. In addition to taking math every year in middle school, your child should take:

  • English: Every year

  • History (including geography) and science: As many classes as possible

  • Foreign language: Many colleges require at least two years of a language, which your child can begin in middle school.

Because college work and many jobs now require computer skills, your child should also try to take advantage of any computer science classes offered in middle and high school. He'll gain new skills and may discover a career path.

Bottom line: Your child will need to satisfy more than the basic high school graduation requirements to be prepared to succeed in college. And he won't be prepared for college prep classes in high school unless he starts now.

Four: Get savvy about college costs

Experts emphasize that there are lots of ways to finance a college education, but you have to do your homework. Researching the way the system works, saving options such as 529 plans, and creative financing ideas will keep you from the last-minute panic that leads families to take out high-interest loans.

"You can find money for college," says Fabiszak. "It takes work and you need to start early."

There are also other cost-cutting measures you'll uncover: Your child can get college credits by taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school or in summer classes at your local community college. That can save you a year's tuition — but your child must be academically prepared to take advantage of these options.

Five: Encourage your child to read, read, read

It's simply the best preparation for the SAT, ACT or college reading assignments that your child can have.

While you're at it, why not make vocabulary building a family game by learning a word a day? There are lots of free subscription services that will email a word of the day, such one from . Your child can teach the daily word to the rest of the family at dinner and quiz you at the end of the week.

Six: Look ahead to high school

High school is the launch pad to college. How does yours measure up? Does the school offer AP or honors courses? These classes put students at an advantage when applying for college. Will your child have access to them? Can anyone take them or do the students have to have a certain grade-point average or be selected by their teachers? Are there electives and extracurricular activities that will motivate and engage your child? If not, do you have other school options? Or do you need to find community resources — music groups, sports clubs, tutors — to supplement what the school offers? Research your child's future high school now, contact the parent group and visit classes to help insure a successful high school experience for your child.

Seven: Don't wait to get your child help with study skills

Your child will need time-management, organizational and study skills to succeed in high school and college. It's easier to address these issues now than it will be when the work gets more challenging. Make sure your child has a quiet place to do homework and the necessary paper, pens and other materials close by. Help him get into a regular routine and monitor the results. If you need to, talk to your child's counselor about how to get extra help - after school, at a community center or in a tutoring program. Take a look at GreatSchools resources on study skills for more tips

Grief and Loss:

Developmental Phases in Understanding Death:

It is important to recognize that all children are unique in their understanding of death and dying. This understanding depends on their developmental level, cognitive skills, personality characteristics, religious or spiritual beliefs, teachings by parents and significant others, input from the media, and previous experiences with death. Nonetheless, there are some general considerations that will be helpful in understanding how children and adolescents experience and deal with death.

  • Infants and Toddlers: The youngest children may perceive that adults are sad, but have no real understanding of the meaning or significance of death.

  • Preschoolers: Young children may deny death as a formal event and may see death as reversible. They may interpret death as a separation, not a permanent condition. Preschool and even early elementary children may link certain events and magical thinking with the causes of death. For instance, as a result of the World Trade Center disaster, some children may imagine that going into tall buildings may cause someone’s death.

  • Early Elementary School: Children at this age (approximately 5-9) start to comprehend the finality of death. They begin to understand that certain circumstances may result in death. They can see that, if large planes crash into buildings, people in the planes and buildings will be killed. In case of war images, young children may not be able to differentiate between what they see on television, and what might happen in their own neighborhood. However, they may over-generalize, particularly at ages 5-6—if jet planes don’t fly, then people don’t die. At this age, death is perceived as something that happens to others, not to oneself or one’s family.

  • Middle School: Children at this level have the cognitive understanding to comprehend death as a final event that results in the cessation of all bodily functions. They may not fully grasp the abstract concepts discussed by adults or on the TV news but are likely to be guided in their thinking by a concrete understanding of justice. They may experience a variety of feelings and emotions, and their expressions may include acting out or self-injurious behaviors as a means of coping with their anger, vengeance and despair.

  • High School: Most teens will fully grasp the meaning of death in circumstances such as an automobile accident, illness and even the World Trade Center or Pentagon disasters. They may seek out friends and family for comfort or they may withdraw to deal with their grief. Teens (as well as some younger children) with a history of depression, suicidal behavior and chemical dependency are at particular risk for prolonged and serious grief reactions and may need more careful attention from home and school during these difficult times.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Expressions of Grief:

Talking to children about death must be geared to their developmental level, respectful of their cultural norms, and sensitive to their capacity to understand the situation. Children will be aware of the reactions of significant adults as they interpret and react to information about death and tragedy. In fact, for primary grade children, adult reactions will play an especially important role in shaping their perceptions of the situation. The range of reactions that children display in response to the death of significant others may include:

  • Emotional shock and at times an apparent lack of feelings, which serve to help the child detach from the pain of the moment;

  • Regressive (immature) behaviors, such as needing to be rocked or held, difficulty separating from parents or significant others, needing to sleep in parent’s bed or an apparent difficulty completing tasks well within the child’s ability level;

  • Explosive emotions and acting out behavior that reflect the child’s internal feelings of anger, terror, frustration and helplessness. Acting out may reflect insecurity and a way to seek control over a situation for which they have little or no control;

  • Asking the same questions over and over, not because they do not understand the facts, but rather because the information is so hard to believe or accept. Repeated questions can help listeners determine if the child is responding to misinformation or the real trauma of the event.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Helping Children Cope:

The following tips will help teachers, parents, and other caregivers support children who have experienced the loss of parents, friends, or loved ones. Some of these recommendations come from Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado.

  • Allow children to be the teachers about their grief experiences: Give children the opportunity to tell their story and be a good listener.

  • Don’t assume that every child in a certain age group understands death in the same way or with the same feelings: All children are different and their view of the world is unique and shaped by different experiences. (Developmental information is provided below.)

  • Grieving is a process, not an event: Parents and schools need to allow adequate time for each child to grieve in the manner that works for that child. Pressing children to resume “normal” activities without the chance to deal with their emotional pain may prompt additional problems or negative reactions.

  • Don’t lie or tell half-truths to children about the tragic event: Children are often bright and sensitive. They will see through false information and wonder why you do not trust them with the truth. Lies do not help the child through the healing process or help develop effective coping strategies for life’s future tragedies or losses.

  • Help all children, regardless of age, to understand loss and death: Give the child information at the level that he/she can understand. Allow the child to guide adults as to the need for more information or clarification of the information presented. Loss and death are both part of the cycle of life that children need to understand.

  • Encourage children to ask questions about loss and death: Adults need to be less anxious about not knowing all the answers. Treat questions with respect and a willingness to help the child find his or her own answers.

  • Don’t assume that children always grieve in an orderly or predictable way: We all grieve in different ways and there is no one “correct” way for people to move through the grieving process.

  • Let children know that you really want to understand what they are feeling or what they need: Sometimes children are upset but they cannot tell you what will be helpful. Giving them the time and encouragement to share their feelings with you may enable them to sort out their feelings.

  • Children will need long-lasting support: The more losses the child or adolescent suffers, the more difficult it will be to recover. This is especially true if they have lost a parent who was their major source of support. Try to develop multiple supports for children who suffer significant losses.

  • Keep in mind that grief work is hard: It is hard work for adults and hard for children as well.

  • Understand that grief work is complicated: Deaths that result from a terrorist act or war can bring forth many issues that are difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend. Grieving may also be complicated by a need for vengeance or justice and by the lack of resolution of the current situation: the conflict may continue and the nation may still feel at risk. The sudden or violent nature of the death or the fact that some individuals may be considered missing rather than dead can further complicate the grieving.

  • Be aware of your own need to grieve: Focusing on the children in your care is important, but not at the expense of your emotional needs. Adults who have lost a loved one will be far more able to help children work through their grief if they get help themselves. For some families, it may be important to seek family grief counseling, as well as individual sources of support.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Resources for Grieving and Traumatized Children:

At times of severe stress, such as the trauma of war or terrorist attacks, both children and adults need extra support. Children who are physically and emotionally closest to this tragedy may very well experience the most dramatic feelings of fear, anxiety and loss. They may have personally lost a loved one or know of friends and schoolmates who have been devastated by these treacherous acts. Adults need to carefully observe these children for signs of traumatic stress, depression or even suicidal thinking, and seek professional help when necessary.

Resources to help you identify symptoms of severe stress and grief reactions are available at the National Association of School Psychologists website—

See also:

For Caregivers:

  • Planning and managing death issues in the schools: A handbook. Deaton, R.L. & Berkan, W.A. (1995)

  • Mister Rogers Website: (see booklet on Grieving for children 4-10 years)

  • Helping bereaved children: A handbook for practitioners. Webb, N.B. (1993).

  • Helping children cope with grief. Wolfelt, A. (1983)

  • Healing the bereaved child: Grief gardening, growth through grief and other touchstones for caregivers. Wolfelt, A (1997).

  • Children and grief: When a parent dies. Worden, J.W. (1996).

  • Helping Children Cope With Death, The Dougy Center for Grieving Children,

For Children:

  • When a friend dies: A book for teens about grieving and healing. Gootman, M.E. (1994)

  • When someone dies. Greenlee, S. (1992).

  • Healing your grieving heart for kids. Wolfelt, A. (2001).

  • When Dinosaurs Die. Brown, L.

  • When Someone Very Special Dies. Heegaard, M.

  • Help Me Say Goodbye. Silverman,J

  • Sad Isn’t Bad, Good Grief Guide Book for Dealing with Loss. Mundy, M


Local Resources:

Community VNA

Kid’s club children’s bereavement group

1-508-222-0188 ext 1370


1 Boston Medical Center Place

Boston, MA 02118 (link to pediatrics and Good Grief program)

Book: Talking to Children About Loss, Maria Trozzi

Caritas Good Samaritan – 1-781-769-8282

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Tips for Children and Teens with Grieving Friends/Classmates:

Seeing a friend try to cope with a loss may scare or upset children who have had little or no experience with death and grieving. Following are some suggestions teachers and parents can provide to children and youth to deal with this “secondary” loss:

Particularly with younger children, it will be important to help clarify their understanding of death. See tips above under “helping children cope.”

Seeing their classmates’ reactions to loss may bring about some fears of losing their own parents or siblings, particularly for students who have family in the military or other risk related professions. Children need reassurance from caregivers and teachers that their own families are safe. For children who have experienced their own loss (previous death of a parent, grandparent, sibling), observing the grief of a friend can bring back painful memories. These children are at greater risk for developing more serious stress reactions and should be given extra support as needed.

Children (and many adults) need help in communicating condolence or comfort messages. Provide children with age-appropriate guidance for supporting their peers. Help them decide what to say (e.g., “Steve, I am so sorry about your father. I know you will miss him very much. Let me know if I can help you with your paper route….”) and what to expect (see “expressions of grief” above).

Help children anticipate some changes in friends’ behavior. It is important that children understand that their grieving friends may act differently, may withdraw from their friends for a while, might seem angry or very sad, etc., but that this does not mean a lasting change in their relationship.

Explain to children that their “regular” friendship may be an important source of support for friends and classmates. Even normal social activities such as inviting a friend over to play, going to the park, playing sports, watching a movie, or a trip to the mall may offer a much needed distraction and sense of connection and normalcy.

Children need to have some options for providing support—it will help them deal with their fears and concerns if they have some concrete actions that they can take to help. Suggest making cards, drawings, helping with chores or homework, etc. Older teens might offer to help the family with some shopping, cleaning, errands, etc., or with babysitting for younger children.

Encourage children who are worried about a friend to talk to a caring adult. This can help alleviate their own concern or potential sense of responsibility for making their friend feel better. Children may also share important information about a friend who is at risk of more serious grief reactions.

Parents and teachers need to be alert to children in their care who may be reacting to a friend’s loss of a loved one. These children will need some extra support to help them deal with the sense of frustration and helplessness that many people are feeling at this time.

Local Resources:

Department of Mental Heath - DMH

-Provides clinical, rehabilitative and supportive services for children and

adolescents with serious mental illness or serious emotional disturbance.

Department of Children and Families - DCF

-The Department's vision is to ensure the safety of children in a manner that

holds the best hope of nurturing a sustained, resilient network of

relationships to support the child's growth and development into adulthood.

Department of Developmental Services - DDS

-The Department is dedicated to creating, in partnership with others, innovative and

genuine opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate fully

and meaningfully in, and contribute to, their communities as valued members.

*Also provides services to children who have an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis

This Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Waiver Program is a Medicaid

program designed to provide services to help children with autism to remain

in their homes and actively participate in their families and in their

communities. This Waiver Program is designed to provide one-to-one

behavioral, social and communication based interventions through a service

called Expanded Habilitation, Education. The waiver will also provide related

support services such as community integration activities and respite. The

waiver will serve up to 80 children under the age of 9, with an autism

spectrum disorder, who meet the eligibility criteria for the Waiver Program.


Social Skills

Academy Metrowest

Fostering the overall development of children by creating an environment where they can be

physically active, build self-confidence and develop social skills through cooperative and collaborative physical play.

Family Autism Center

Providing outreach, advocacy, education, and support to individuals, families

and the community with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

789 Clapboardtree Street

Westwood, MA 02090

(781) 762-4001

fax (781) 461-5950

Family Village

ADHD Support

Families First

Family Links

Got Worries?

Student advice on dealing with feelings related to school, family,

friends, and other topics of interest:

For any immediate emergency: Call 911

Advocates Crisis Support: 1-800-640-5432

Ashland Youth and Family Services: 1-508-881-0140 x3

Call2talk 211 or text C2T to 741741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

See Something/Say Something anonymous reporting app

For help with access to food, contact the Ashland Food Pantry at