IN A CRISIS
by Dr. Carol Renaud Gaffney
What is the Problem? We've been terrorized,
and as a result, we're experiencing a myriad of
feelings -- most commonly, fear, anger and sadness.
These feelings are expressed in ways that are
different from what we usually do. Many of these
responses are normal, given the situation. Most
important, however, is trying to keep fear from
becoming a phobia, anger becoming rage, or sadness
What would we like? If you are like me,
you want life to return to the way it was. I would
like to wake up from this bad dream, but unfortunately,
that's not going to happen.
What is the reality? The reality is that
this terrorist act has occurred; much uncertainty
remains; we don't know what's going to happen
next; other people are making many decisions that
can affect us; and no matter what, life in America
is going to be different. Our typically routine
and secure life has changed, and we must adjust
to the changes. So now that we understand the
reality, we must consider a period of grieving
and adjustment. We've been told that life is a
process, and we're supposed to experience and
enjoy the journey, but this is one trip that we
may feel pretty uncertain about taking.
What can I expect? An unusual response
to an unusual situation is normal. We have witnessed the loss of civilian lives through
terrorist bombings in what we thought were peaceful
times. As part of a normal response to these events,
we can expect expressions of emotion, changes
in thinking and changes in behavior. These changes
will be more pronounced based on our tendencies
toward reacting to stressful events and how close
to the actual events we were. We can also expect
a new structure and routine to emerge. The more
aware and intentional we are, the more control
we can have about what emerges.
What are symptoms of stress?
Symptoms vary by age but can include:
- Increased aggression
- Spending more time alone
- Not wanting to leave the family
- Interrupted sleep
- Changes in eating
- Drop in grades
- Not wanting to sleep alone
- Increased concerns about health
- Unrelenting need for information and understanding
What can I do?
|Be a STAR
- Take good care of yourself, understand
your own feelings, manage your thinking and
behavior and become role models for your children.
You can't take care of them if you are running
- Grieve your losses and respect the process.
Making feelings disappear doesn't make them
- Create a new normality, getting back to
typical schedules as soon as possible.
- Integrate the grieving process into life
- don't let it become life.
- Plan more time to be with your children
- Understand your child's style and how that
blends with your own. Adjust your style to theirs
to communicate more easily.
- Answer questions honestly but without more
information than necessary. Consider the age
and understanding level of your child. If you
don't know the answer to a question, find out
and be sure to get back to your children with
what you've learned.
- Reduce the amount of TV time - especially
for the younger children. With children under
6 or 7, every time they see the towers fall,
it's like it's happening all over again.
- Draw your children out and ask them what
they know about what happened and what their
- Talking about fear won't make your children
more afraid. It may actually calm them.
- Reassure your children, but be honest.
For example -"many new security measures are
in place to help keep us safe," but not," there
won't be any more plane crashes."
- Do something in that is helpful for someone
When do I seek professional help?
- When you know you are having difficulty adjusting.
- When the changes you notice in your child
are not reducing after two weeks.
Where is help available?
Local mental health organizations
For more information on the web