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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Children 'need to talk' about attacks
Teachers are prepared for questions from pupils
Parents and teachers must allow children to talk through the horrific events in the United States, experts say.

With extensive media coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, children have been exposed to harrowing images, psychologists warn.

When children experience events like this they have to be able to talk it through

Virginia Fraher, head teacher
Teachers across the UK have been bracing themselves for questions from pupils and the need to discuss their interpretation of events.

Parents too must not avoid children's questions about the events, urged child psychologist - and director of the charity Kidscape - Michele Elliott.

"It's the only thing on television, radio and in the papers - kids will see it and they'll want to know what's happening," said Dr Elliott.

"For the next week this will be pretty standard fare on news channels and parents have to accept that children will be asking questions," she said.

Scant detail

The best approach was to answer their questions until they were satisfied - without going into too much detail, she advised.

"Do not say 'Don't worry about it' - they'll only go away and worry about it without telling you they're doing that.

"It will also devalue their own feelings and intellect, because they know something is happening."

Children of parents who travelled extensively may feel particularly insecure, said Dr Elliott.

"Tell them there are guards, as there undoubtedly will be now, and that you will ring and write - and give them a cuddle too."

When it came to very young children aged two or three, it might be best just to say the events were like a movie, she added.

Class debate

Staff at Angel Primary School in Islington, London, agreed that all its eight classes should be given a small talk about the attacks, as well as the chance to talk the situation through.

Many pupils arrived at school visibly shaken and worried after seeing television footage, said head teacher Virginia Fraher.

The explosions caused the twin towers of the World Trade Center to collapse
"Every teacher was aware they would have to deal with this today," said Ms Fraher.

"This is a traumatic event and when children experience events like this they have to be able to talk it through.

"But then we have to make them feel safe - we've told them that this was a one-off terrorist attack, that everything is being done to ensure the safety of this country, that there are no aeroplanes going over us here," Ms Fraher explained.

"But we can't diminish it, because it is so significant," she added.

Teachers at Yeadon Westfield Junior School in Leeds decided against holding a special assembly, so as not to alarm pupils.

But individual teachers would be discussing the matter in their classrooms, said head teacher, Kevin Metcalf.

"It may mean getting the kids together on the carpet and asking them about what they've seen, trying to understand their vision of what's happened and to talk that through," he said.

"But what are they making of it all?"

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