Terrorism and Kids
Comforting Your Child   by Fern Reiss

In the Book Media Page
Buy the Book
Author Bio
Contact Us

For inquiries on serial or bookclub rights, television appearances, or all other inquiries, please contact us directly at Alyza@TerrorismAndKids.com.
Pictures to download:
Articles to Print or Broadcast

Any print or broadcast media may print or run any of the following as articles, excerpts, or radio spots, as long as they are attributed to the book, “Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child” by Fern Reiss.

Three Symptoms to Watch For

Wondering whether your child is okay after the recent events? Here are three surprising symptoms that many children will exhibit, from the new book,"Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child" by Fern Reiss. Available at bookstores, libraries, or direct from www.TerrorismAndKids.com.

Listen for complaints of bruising

Your child may exhibit a sudden new concern about her cut knees and skinned shins, or react disproportionately to a minor bump. She may complain of tummy ache or headache, or experience rashes, lethargy, nausea, colds, weakness, forgetfulness, or cramps.

"Andy kept whining about the cut on his knee. He's scraped that knee up bicycling every week of his life and I've never heard him talk about it before," wondered one father.

These complaints are a way for your child to say, "I'm hurting inside," without the necessity of vocalizing it. Such physical manifestations may continue long after the initial attack. Listen to the complaints, and be appropriately sympathetic. By comforting the physical manifestation of what is actually an internal hurt, you'll be healing both.

Be alert for anger

Keep in mind that anger can be a cover for other, more complicated emotions. If you notice that your child seems unusually angry, or is behaving more aggressively than usual, there is a good chance that she feels scared and helpless.

"I came downstairs the next morning," said one mother, "and Bobbie was jumping up and down on his favorite stuffed bear. I didn't know whether to laugh or weep."

Parents often find it difficult to see their children expressing anger. Our tendency is to distract or rebuke them. Forcing your child to contain his emotions, however, is the worst thing you can do if you want them to recover. As long as the anger is not harmful to the child or others, it is a positive thing. Remember that any expression of emotion, including anger, is a healing, empowering device.

Watch for regression

Watch for behavioral regression. Children under stress typically respond with a temporary lapse in age-appropriate behavior. In the same way that bringing a newborn into the house may mean your three year old is suddenly back in diapers, the aftermath of a terrorist attack may find all your children suddenly behaving younger than their ages.

You may see thumb sucking, toilet accidents, and generally younger behavior. By returning to a younger stage, your child is forcing you to respond as when he was younger, and more needy.

"He's suddenly wetting his bed at night, and he?s been toilet trained for a year," one mother worried.

Respond by treating your child as if he were the younger age he is attempting to recapture. Provide lots of love and warmth. And don't worry: This behavior won't last forever.


Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child by Fern Reiss is available at your local bookstore or public library, or direct from TerrorismAndKids.com.

Help Your Child Cope

If you're concerned that your child isn't bouncing back from his anxiety around the recent events, here are three tips to help him cope from the new book, "Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child" by Fern Reiss. Available at bookstores, libraries, or direct from TerrorismAndKids.com.

Give him options

One thing children need after a traumatic experience is to recapture some of the power that the trauma drained from them. Feeling helpless is an emotionally hazardous condition if it persists, and restoring your child?s sense of empowerment is one of the easiest things you can do for him.

Since you're obviously unable to give them a sense of power over the events of the terrorism, enable them in other ways. Give them options about what they'd like for dinner, or where they'd like to go for an outing. Even a toddler can pick her own outfit or choose when to go to the park.

Reminding them of how much control they have over their lives and experiences will be subtly empowering and much appreciated.

Let her be helpful

Just as children respond well after a traumatic incident to choices because they find it empowering, likewise children are comforted by helping out.

"I thought it was a way of trying to make me feel better, but then I could see that the kids were helping set the table and cleaning up their stuff because it was making them feel better," said one astonished mother.

So even if your children don't ask for tasks, look for opportunities to clean up or cook together. This is one case where helpful children are happy children.

Help them make lists

Therapists who work with grieving children report that making lists can be extremely helpful. Writing a list of things to do, for example, can be grounding and keep you focused. Writing a list about the future can remind you that you have a future.

Make lists with your children of things you?re grateful for, or happy about. Include talking to friends, music, playing with puppies, hugs, getting a birthday present, sitting in front of a woodstove, and playing on the beach.

Make it a game and see who can come up with the longest and most interesting list of things that are good in your life. This is a fun activity even under normal circumstances; in a traumatic situation, it can be both grounding and cheering.


Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child by Fern Reiss is available at your local bookstore or public library, or direct from TerrorismAndKids.com.

Answering Your Child's Questions

Unsure how to answer your child's difficult questions about terrorism and war? Here are some ideas from the new book, "Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child" by Fern Reiss. Available at bookstores, libraries, or direct from TerrorismAndKids.com.

Why did this happen?

Explain that there are horrible people in the world. Stress that there aren't very many - you don't want your child to feel more scared than she has to. But tell her that every so often, there's a horrible person who does some terrible thing. If your child is old enough to know any history, you might take this opportunity to talk to her about other horrible people who have lived in the past, such as Hitler. The underlying message is that, sometimes, terrible people do horrible things.

If your child has has any positive experiences with the police (some children are scared of policemen) you can explain that we have police (and governments, and laws, and jails) to protect good citizens from these few horrible people. The important thing is to make sure your child understands that most people are good and behave nicely to each other, and that horrible people are rare.

Be sure you use the word "horrible" or "terrible" in referring to the perpetrators, rather than the word "bad." Your children may have been called "bad" after being naughty, and you need to draw a strong distinction for them between being mischievous and being a terrorist.

Will it happen here?

Remind your child that, until now, nothing bad has ever happened where you live, if that's true. Tell your child that in general, such terrible things hardly ever happen.

Couch it in personal terms: "Grandma and Grandpa grew up here and nothing bad happened here; I grew up here and nothing bad happened; and I don't think anything bad will happen here."

Remind your child that it is your job, as a parent, to make sure that they stay safe. "Mommy and Daddy will do everything we have to keep us all safe and together."

Are bombs going to fall on us?

Tell your child that in the entire 200+ year history of America, since your great, great, great, great, great, grandfather was alive, no bombs have fallen on the US mainland. (In talking to a child old enough to know about Pearl Harbor, remind them that that was an attack on a military base; nobody's home was bombed.)

Reiterate that you will keep your child and family safe.

In the event that war erupts, tell your child that you have a safe place to go if it becomes necessary, where bombs cannot land (that is, a bomb shelter). You might want to tell your child that going to the safe place will be like a camping trip, and you will bring food, sleeping bags, and favorite toys with you. Remind her that your whole family will be together.


Terrorism and Kids: Comforting Your Child by Fern Reiss is available at your local bookstore or public library, or direct from TerrorismAndKids.com.

Copyright © 2002 Peanut Butter and Jelly Press, L.L.C., P.O. Box 590239, Newton, MA. 02459
“Extraordinary books on everyday topics”
(Send comments to: webmaster@TerrorismAndKids.com.  Last modified: January 7, 2002.)