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FOR RELEASE: September 14, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Health Officials Offer Tips for Coping with Crisis

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and health professionals at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) are aware of the emotional turmoil many Oklahomans are facing in light of the tragic events that occurred September 11, 2001. In response to these events and the stress associated with memories of the 1995 bombing in downtown Oklahoma City, health professionals are offering the following general advice on how to communicate with children, adolescents and adults during times of crisis.

Adults:

  • Be aware that you may experience feeling “jittery”, forgetful, frightened, sad or overwhelmed. These are normal reactions.
  • Stick with simple tasks, something easy.
  • Talk out worries or concerns with friends and loved ones as needed.
  • Reduce excessive stimulation by turning off TVs and radios.
  • Create a quiet retreat for yourselves and family members where they can relax or just contemplate.
  • Be aware of your breathing and try to keep it slow and regular.
  • Avoid self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
  • Protect yourself, children and young adults from over-exposure to media reports.
  • Drink water and juices to keep hydrated.

Children and Adolescents:

  • Continuously reassure your children that you will help to keep them safe. They need to know the violence is isolated to certain areas and they will not be harmed. Parents should try to assure children that they have done everything they can to keep their children safe.
  • Avoid overexposure to the media. Children and adolescents should not watch these events alone.
  • Let your children ask questions, talk about what happened, and express their feelings. Discussion is critical to help children understand the significance of the events. It should be stressed that the terrorist acts are ones of desperation and horror and not political or religion. (Children should know that lashing out at members of a particular religious or ethnic group will only cause more harm.)
  • Be aware that your child's age will affect his or her response. Adolescents in particular may be hard hit by these kinds of events and parents should watch for signs of sleep disturbances, fatigue, lack of pleasure in activities enjoyed previously and initiation of illicit substance abuse. (Obtaining counseling for a child or adolescent soon after a disaster may reduce long-term effects.)
  • Calmly express your emotions - remember that a composed demeanor will provide a greater sense of security for your child.
  • Give your children extra time and attention and plan to spend more time with your children in the following months.
  • Play with children who can't talk yet to help them work out their fears and respond to the atmosphere around them.
  • Keep regular schedules for activities such as eating, playing and going to bed to help restore a sense of security and normalcy.
  • Consider how you and your child can help. Children are better able to regain their sense of power and security if they feel they can help in some way.

Visit some of the following web sites for general resources that can be used by parents, teachers, and other caregivers to help children through these difficult days.

Oklahoma State Department of Health 
www.health.state.ok.us/program/mchs/ats/index.html

The Parent Center
www.parentcenter.com/general/34754.html

American Academy of Pediatrics
www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/disastercomm.htm

American Psychological Association
http://helping.apa.org/therapy/traumaticstress.html#children

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
http://www.aacap.org/

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