The events of September 11, 2001, left many parents wondering how to talk with their children about the news. As our government retaliated and the situation at home intensified, many children were asking a new set of questions, for which there were no simple answers. Any time that children see or hear news that is troubling to them, they may look to their parents for answers.
Advisors at Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street agree that parents should find out what their children know, limit children's viewing of the news, and stay close and maintain normal routines in troubled times. To help families communicate and jumpstart important conversations, PBS Kids has put together a package of suggestions from our programming experts along with related activities to do together.
"When talking with children, parents should keep in mind their child's age and personality," advises Dr. Charlotte Cole, Vice President of Education and Research at Sesame Workshop. "Young children need the security of their routines and assurance that they are loved and in a safe place." Dr. Cole also stresses the importance of helping older children cope with stress by engaging them in activities in which they can make a personal contribution that will benefit others in their own or another community. Sesame Workshop's Special Update, written in response to the events of September 11, provides age-customized tips for talking with kids and answering troubling questions.
"Be a good listener," reports Fred Rogers. "Older children are probably
aware that something serious is happening in the world. If parents don't
bring up the subject to them, they may be left at the mercy of their
misinterpretations. Parents may want to ask their children to tell them
what they have heard." The Mister Rogers' Neighborhood web site offers more thoughts for helping children cope with scary news.
A new Arthur parents guide, Helping Our Children Feel Safe, provides advice from early childhood experts and lists Arthur resources and episodes that focus on themes of conflict resolution, fear, loss and tolerance.
The PBS Kids content below may help children (and their parents) communicate and handle their
feelings during challenging times.
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: How Do You Feel?
This online activity provides a face children can change to illustrate different kinds of feelings. When we can talk about our feelings, they can become a lot less overwhelming, or upsetting, or scary. Just having a caring listener makes hard times more manageable.
Clifford: Stormy Weather
Teaching children what to do in an emergency can help them feel safer and reduce feelings of powerlessness. In this offline activity, children are encouraged to discuss how they feel about storms and natural disasters.
Based on an episode where kids watch a scary Halloween movie, this offline activity teaches children to identify and name emotions. Kids learn that it's OK to be afraid and are encouraged to share the things they are afraid of.
Dragon Tales: Forest of Darkness
In this online game, Ord asks kids to help him find out what's hiding in the dark. Many children are afraid of the dark because they can't see what's around them -- while playing this game, parents can talk to children about how nighttime fears go away when you find out what's really there.
Jay Jay the Jet Plane: Big Jake's Story Book
In this online story book, little Snuffy can't sleep -- he's afraid of the dark and the noises in the forest scare him. Big Jake soothes him by showing the group the starry sky.
Teletubbies: Design a Flag and Make a Parade
In this offline activity, America's youngest children can feel a sense of pride and patriotism by
making an American flag and having a parade to express their feelings.