Manage fears brought up by the September 11 in your classroom

September 12, 2011

This week saw the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The extensive media coverage, reporting of these events, and the repetition of images and stories over the past week means that many children will have been exposed to what occurred on September 11 2001. Experts say that repeatedly viewing images of 9/11 and the aftermath can be harmful and even traumatise children.[1]  Exposure to these images may also trigger fear or anxiety in children about their parents or loved ones dying, or may cause worry about other disasters occurring here, such as floods and bushfires.

Teachers may notice some characteristics of fear and anxiety in their students as a result of viewing 9/11 footage this week.

The list below provides 5 key things teachers can do to support children in their class who are feeling scared as a result of the 9/11 reports and associated images this week.

  • Normalise. Let the child know that feeling scared or sad after seeing scary images on television is normal and that the fear will subside.
  • Provide perspective. Answer questions, or correct inaccurate information honestly and age-appropriately.
  • Provide a sense of safety and control. Help the child feel safe through maintaining routines, and discussing what keeps them safe.
  • Help promote coping behaviours. Have the child identify things they do that help them feel better such as talk to a parent, write in a journal, play a game, go for a run. Suggest they do one of these things when they feel scared or sad.
  • Look after yourself.  Take time out to do something nice for yourself with friends or engage in a hobby or exercise you enjoy. If you  feel affected by the anniversary make time to talk with someone about it.

It is important that you discuss any concerns you may have about a child with their parents and a senior staff member.

For more comprehensive information and classroom strategies to support the child affected by the 9/11 anniversary Psych4Schools members can access the full text Children who fear world events (terrorism, disasters, pandemics) ebooklet.