COMET • Vol. 2, No. 23 – 12 September 2001

(1) “Coping with Crisis”

Source: Eisenhower National Clearinghouse – 12 September 2001
Web link:,1456,graphics,00.shtm

Below is a collection of articles designed to help children cope with crisis situations:

*American Psychological Association — Managing Traumatic Stress: Tips for Recovering From Disasters and Other Traumatic Events

* Education Week — Schools and Crisis: Selected Resources

* National Association of School Psychologists — Children and Responding to National Disaster: Information for Parents

* National Association of School Psychologists — Children and Responding to National Disaster: Information for Teachers

* National Association of School Psychologists — Helping Children Cope With Tuesday’s Acts of Terrorism

* National Institute of Mental Health — Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters

* National Mental Health and Education Center — Disaster: Helping Children Cope

* PBS Kids: Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood — Helping Children Deal With Scary News — Thoughts from Fred Rogers

(2) “Coping With Tragedy”

Source: Netscape Health
Web site:

Each of us is affected emotionally and physically by the terrorist attacks. Trauma experts offer advice on coping with shock, stress and high emotions. Links are available to articles on the following topics: Tips to Reduce Stress, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and Helping Children Cope.

Donating Blood
The American Red Cross will need blood donors over the next several days to help replenish the U.S. blood supply. Call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE for an appointment.

Information on donating blood can be found at

(3) “When Children Ask About Disasters, be Reassuring” by Cheryl Powell

Source: Akron Beacon Journal – 12 September 2001
Web site:

It’s a natural instinct for parents to insulate their children from bad news and danger.

So what’s a parent to do when horrific, terrorist acts in this country dominate the news and just about every conversation?

Stay calm and try to answer questions as honestly as possible.

“I think it’s good for the children to see the parents are handling it and set a good example,” said Dr. Pat Firth, division director of pediatric psychiatry for Children’s Hospital Medical Center of Akron.

When tragedies strike, it’s even more important than ever for parents to spend time with children and tell them they’re loved, said Bob Bender, associate director of Child Guidance Centers in Akron. To the extent that it’s possible, be extra available to children.

Some children may have nightmares or problems eating and sleeping because they feel “their world is coming to an end,” Firth said. Reassure them, and allow them to talk about their worries.

Here are other tips for parents offered by Firth and Bender:

* Don’t allow children to watch TV news accounts of the events around-the-clock. When youngsters do watch TV reports, watch it with them.

* If children want to talk about the news, don’t change the subject. Let them share their worries and concerns.

* Set a good example by praying, giving a donation to victims or donating blood to help.

* Pay extra attention to children who are more anxious than average.

* Monitor children who are violence prone. They might be swayed by the news to create their own catastrophes.

It also might be wise to insulate younger, preschool-age children from the news, if possible, Firth added…

(4) “Trauma Experts: Sharing and Caring Best Response to Terror” by Daniel DeNoon

Source: WebMD Medical News – 11 September 2001
Web site:

No form of disaster is harder to deal with than terrorism, experts say, and what occurred this Tuesday takes terrorism to a whole new level.

But even though we feel helpless, there is a lot we can do for ourselves–and for others.

“We are all totally shocked and confused and feel vulnerable–we can’t help thinking, is more going to happen? Is it going to happen to us or to our family?” says psychiatry professor Syed Arshad Husain, MD. Husain is director of the International Center for Psychosocial Trauma at the University of Missouri. He has personally studied the psychological aftermath of terrorism at Oklahoma City and of war in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.

“From our experience with the Oklahoma City bombing, the trauma as a result of viewing the gory pictures of destruction caused more psychological damage to more people than the direct impact,” Husain tells WebMD. “Only a small number of people are directly affected, but after looking at the pictures in the paper, secondary trauma was rampant.”

“Get out and talk to friends and loved ones,” says psychiatrist Carol S. North. “Just get with people you care about and who care about you. That is a wonderful source of support.”

North, associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has studied more than 2,000 survivors of natural and terrorist disasters–including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

She says that the psychological effects of a disaster radiate out from the center in concentric circles. Actual survivors are most traumatized, then their families and loved ones, then emergency medical personnel. In the outer circle–but also affected–are those of us who witness the event on television.

“Share your feelings and reactions, try to process together, try to make meaning,” North advises. “Try to get facts and information so that you can draw logical, evidence-based conclusions.”

Children are a special concern, warns psychologist Avrum Geurin Weiss, PhD. Weiss, a consultant to the Atlanta Veteran’s Affairs hospital, teaches psychotherapists how to treat trauma survivors.

“Kids are going to have a lot of fears that parents would never anticipate,” Weiss says. “They will go places where you and I would never go. They need an atmosphere where they can talk about their fears, even if they are not rational. You don’t want to say to them, ‘That is silly, don’t worry about that.’ They will have all kinds of odd ideas. They will be scared–and they will see how scared we are as parents.”

Like Weiss, Husain emphasizes the need for parents to speak with their children. Most important, he says, is for parents to tell their children that they will keep them safe.

“I think parents should tell the children that it is common to feel scared and unsafe and sad,” Husain says. “They should tell their children that they, too, are feeling that way–but they are very sure that the children are safe and that they will take actions to assure that safety.”

Husain advises parents to carefully monitor television and newspaper stories to keep their children from viewing the more violent and gory images. But like Weiss, he strongly urges parents to discuss these events with their children.

“In these discussions I think the posture should be safety and control and confidence,” he says. “Boys and girls will want to know more about this–who did this and that. There will be lots of speculation. It is important to not become part of the rumors.”

North notes that it is normal to react to terror by having memories of the event pop into one’s mind, by not wanting to talk about it, and by feeling jumpy and hypervigilant. But people who develop long-term psychological symptoms tend to be those who talk least about it, and who try to avoid dealing with their feelings.

All of the experts who spoke with WebMD strongly recommend that people get together and talk with one another.

“People should gather in small groups and talk–in neighborhoods or community centers or places of worship or whatever,” Weiss says. “Our whole world has just changed.”

(5) “Grace Under Fire” by Leslie Garisto Pfaff

Source: Family Life Magazine – November 1999
Web site:,8266,1244,00.html

My 7-year-old daughter, Lily, gives every indication of being a roll-with-the-punches kind of kid, handling the stresses of her young life (entering first grade is no mean feat) with a grace and equanimity that constantly surprise me. Still, on those days when my thoughts veer to the future and the as-yet-unnamed difficulties she’s likely to encounter, I can’t help worrying, especially when I view her through the lens of my own childhood.

When I was 12, my mother died suddenly of cancer–an emotional blow I didn’t fully recover from for many years. When I became a mother myself, I was haunted by the fear that my daughter might have to suffer a similar loss. Like most parents, I wanted to shield my child from pain. But I also wondered if there was any way I could prepare her to face adversity–and bounce back.

A growing field of research indicates that there is. Over the past decade or so, psychologists have studied people who suffered childhood trauma, from poverty and illness to abandonment and sexual abuse, and discovered, to the surprise of many, that some people emerge from severe adversity relatively unscathed. What’s more, these survivors share specific traits (see “Can Your Child Bounce Back?”) that helped them navigate the treacherous channels of their childhood. The question for those of us in loving, stable families is whether we can teach our own children those same traits.

Can We Foster Resilience?

Steven Wolin, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, believes that we can. Dr. Wolin, coauthor, with his wife, Sybil Wolin, Ph.D., of The Resilient Self: How Survivors of Troubled Families Rise Above Adversity ($23, Villard Books), believes we can help our children build “emotional muscles” to help them rebound from hardship. And we can do this with a few basic parenting tools, including what Sybil Wolin, a developmental psychologist with Project Resilience in Washington, DC, calls “modeling”–demonstrating through our own behavior that “hardships are conquerable, manageable.” We accomplish this when, for instance, we maintain our sense of humor when we’re running late and stuck in traffic.

In addition, says Ann Masten, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, we can “use the teaching moment”–pointing out appropriate and inappropriate responses to stress in other people we see on the street, in books and movies, even in our own families. Most important, we can encourage the kinds of behavior that build emotional strength, from independent problem-solving to collaboration. Masten and others in the field also point to certain key actions that we can take to help our kids develop the combination of traits collectively known as resilience.

Encourage the Three I’s

Central to the ability to rebound from stress is a sense of mastery over your own life. And what fuels this feeling are the three I’s: independence, initiative, and insight.

If we want to raise independent children, the first thing we have to do is pay less attention to one of the most basic of parental urges: Our desire, often finely tuned, to keep our kids out of harm’s way. “You don’t want to overprotect your children,” says Jerome Kagan, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Harvard University. “Let them know that it’s okay to climb trees, to engage in rough-and-tumble sports.” And, from an early age, teach them to do things for themselves, from pouring a glass of juice to inviting a friend over for the afternoon to, later on, scouting the library for information about prospective colleges.

To encourage initiative–the ability to self-start–Sybil Wolin suggests letting your children begin to tackle not just everyday tasks but personal problems as well; instead of telling them what to do, ask them what they think should be done (and make sure they follow through). According to David Miller, Ph.D., associate professor of social work at The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, this is also a good way to help your kids develop insight–the ability to understand why things happen, and how our own actions can make a difference. Miller offers the example of a child who’s gotten in trouble at school for fighting at recess or talking back to the teacher. Instead of simply punishing the child, suggests Miller, sit down with him and, together, look at several alternative ways he might have behaved; then let him choose the behavior that would have led to a better outcome. “This kind of approach lets children see that they always have choices,” he says.

Set an Agenda

Miller believes that one of the most important resources for a child facing adversity is the ability to plan. Understanding what it takes to devise a plan and–this is key–to see it through to fruition allows children to find practical escape routes from potentially threatening situations. And seeing oneself as a planner is empowering. You can practice planning with your kids in positive situations: Putting together a lemonade stand, say, or organizing a slumber party. Let them put these same skills to work when real problems arise: If your daughter brings home an unexpected failing grade, for example, let her be the author (with your guidance, of course) of a strategy for bringing her performance in that subject up again. If there’s been a fire in your house, let her help you put some safety measures in place.

Inspire Faith

In studies of children at risk, faith has repeatedly emerged as a key protective factor. This may be the result, says Masten, of the support provided by religious organizations in times of need and the simple fact that many people are connected to religious organizations. More important, faith tends to confer a sense of optimism in the future that is highly resistant to stress. Of course, the word “faith” generally brings to mind organized religion, but it can also mean, in Masten’s words, “a sense of meaning and purpose in life.” Resilient children and adults share the belief that they matter, that life matters, and that they have the power to make a difference.

Encourage Empathy

The literature of self-help abounds with stories of people who have soothed their own grief by reaching out to others–people like Candy Lightner, who established Mothers Against Drunk Driving after the death of her child in an alcohol-related accident. Dr. Steven Wolin notes that children, too, find solace in helping others. Take advantage of everyday opportunities to promote empathy: Ask your kids if they can imagine being in the situation of people they see on the news. When you slip a dollar into the Salvation Army kettle, explain why you’re doing it. Let your children see you in the act of helping others–for example, paying a visit to an elderly neighbor–so they can observe the way these actions lift your spirits.

Get Creative

In The Resilient Self, Sybil Wolin calls creativity “the safe harbor of the imagination”–a place where children (and adults) can slip away to find refuge from the emotional storms that rage around them. Creativity, says Wolin, is also a way of rebuilding a shattered world. In Savannah, GA, for example, a program called Blues in the School encourages troubled high-schoolers to heal their troubles through music, by literally singing the blues of their own lives. Parents can apply the same principles to their own kids, Wolin says. When my daughter was anxious about her first ballet recital, I suggested that she sit down and draw two pictures: one of her nervous self and the other of the glorious ballerina she hoped to be. She had great fun sketching out a rubbery, nervous dancer with down-turned mouth and knitted brow, and the twin image –a beaming prima ballerina performing a perfect pirouette–which let her see herself as she could be.

Lighten Up

Of all the resources we can muster against despair, humor may be the most restorative. What better way to cut a demon down to size than to laugh at him? It’s also important, says Dr. Steven Wolin, to be able to poke fun at yourself–something that may not come easily to your average 6- or 12-year-old. Nevertheless, he advises, it’s a trait that can be taught. Let your child see you make light of your own troubles; even better, laugh at something silly the two of you may have done together: “Weren’t we dopey to forget to bring along our umbrellas? Now we look like a couple of drowned rats.”

Teach Team Spirit

Kids who can bounce back from adversity understand the power of collaboration; they seem to have a natural impulse to “recruit”–to reach out to others in times of trouble. They also show the ability to engage adults, notes Dr. Steven Wolin, in a few very specific ways: Showing curiosity, asking questions, and making eye contact. If your child, like mine, is shy around grown-ups, try coaching her before an encounter; together, think of a few simple questions she can ask–about family, a job, a hobby, or even a pet, for example.

Whatever you do, don’t let your children “tough out” bad times by themselves; instead, encourage them to come to you and others who can help. Make an effort to foster relationships between your children and what Masten calls “a network of caring adults”: Relatives, neighbors, teachers, guidance counselors, clergy, coaches, etc. And make sure your kids participate in a positive group activity, like scouting or team sports.

Finally, don’t forget that family matters–even, says Masten, when the family isn’t around. In the years after my mother’s death, my brother and sister, along with three doting grandparents, were unfailingly there for me. And though she’s no longer around, my mother provided me with a reservoir of strength and love that I continue to draw on–a gift of resilience I hope to pass along to my own daughter.

Will Your Child be Able to Bounce Back?

While we can’t exactly predict which children will sail through adversity and which will flounder, we can get a sense of their potential to bounce back by checking for certain traits common to adults who have rebounded from troubled childhoods. Ask yourself if your child exhibits these traits. (You can also take this quiz to test your own mettle.)

* Does your child have faith in a higher power, or express positive thoughts about the future?

* Is your child able to laugh at himself and his problems or mistakes?

* Does your child enjoy being creative and have access to some kind of expressive outlet–be it painting, singing, or building model airplanes?

* Does your child have “emotional intelligence,” which is the ability to solve everyday interpersonal problems in a productive way?

* Does your child show a desire for independence?

* Is your child able to connect with adults?

* Does your child have a social conscience (compassion for others in times of trouble)?

Don’t worry if your child exhibits only a few of these traits; most psychologists believe that all of them can be learned. And just as kids don’t need to excel in every subject to do well in school, they don’t need to show every marker of resilience in order to bounce back from adversity.

(6) “11”

Source: Tapp Hancock (

Some people have begun looking for “mathematical” patterns among the places, people, and events related to the tragedy…

    • – The date of the attack: 9/11 – 9 + 1 + 1 = 11


    • – September 11th is the 254th day of the year: 2 + 5 + 4 = 11


    • – After September 11th there are 111 days left to the end of the year.


    • – State of New York – The 11 state added to the Union


    • – New York City – 11 letters


    • – The Pentagon – 11 letters


    • – Twin Towers – standing side by side, look like the number 11


    • – The first plane to hit the towers was Flight 11


    • – Flight 11 had 92 passengers on board 9 + 2 = 11


    – Flight 77 (7×11) had 65 passengers on board 6 + 5 = 11