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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
First Lady counsels pupils
George and Laura Bush at Washington hospital
Mrs Bush and the president after visiting victims
America's First Lady, former teacher Laura Bush, has written to pupils across the United States encouraging them to talk through their fears following Tuesday's terrorist attacks.


With each story of sorrow and pain comes one of hope and courage

Laura Bush
Mrs Bush sent one letter to younger children and one to older students, via the heads of public education in all 50 states.

"I want to reassure you that there are many people - including your family, your teachers, and your school counselors - who are there to listen to you," she wrote.

"You can also write down your thoughts or draw a picture that shows how you are feeling and share that with the adults in your life," she told the younger children.

"Helping others will make you feel better, too."

Click here for the full texts

In her letter to older children, she said the attacks had "changed our world", but added: "With each story of sorrow and pain comes one of hope and courage."

'Turn off the TV'

In a television interview with CNN, Mrs Bush repeated advice from the National Association of Elementary School Principals to shield younger children in particular from the constant stream of disturbing images in the reporting of the tragedy.

She said parents should "turn off the television and think of something constructive to do with their children."

The National Association of School Psychologists has provided information about ways to help children begin recovering from "this senseless act of violence".

It also advised not dwelling on the scale of the tragedy, especially with young children.

Reassurance

Parents and school staff could help children cope by establishing a sense of safety and security.

Later, the process might even be used as a learning experience.

Adults should try to be calm and avoid appearing anxious or frightened themselves, and reassure children that their own, ordinary buildings were not at risk.

"Remind them that trustworthy people are in charge," it said.

"Explain that the government emergency workers, police, firefighters, doctors, and even the military are helping people who are hurt and are working to ensure that no further tragedies occur."

The texts of Mrs Bush's letters to older students and (below) younger children:

Dear Students:
On Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans lost mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends in a national tragedy. Those who knew them are feeling a great loss, and you may be feeling sorrow, fear and confusion as well.

The feelings and thoughts that surround this tragedy are as plentiful as they are conflicting. I want to reassure you that there are many people - including your family, your teachers, and your school counselors - who are there to listen to you.

Sept. 11 changed our world. But with each story of sorrow and pain comes one of hope and courage. As we move forward, all of us have an opportunity to become better people and to learn valuable lessons about heroism, love and compassion.

As we mourn those who died, let us remember that as Americans, we can be proud and confident that we live in a country that symbolizes freedom and opportunity to millions throughout the world. Our nation is strong, and our people resilient. We have a well-earned reputation for pulling together in the worst of times to help each other.

I send my best wishes and my hope that you will always take care of your family, friends, neighbors and those in need.

Sincerely, Laura Bush

Dear Children:
Many Americans were injured or lost their lives in the recent national tragedy. All their friends and loved ones are feeling very sad, and you may be feeling sad, frightened, or confused, too.

I want to reassure you that many people - including your family, your teachers, and your school counselor - love and care about you and are looking out for your safety. You can talk with them and ask them questions. You can also write down your thoughts or draw a picture that shows how you are feeling and share that with the adults in your life.

When sad or frightening things happen, all of us have an opportunity to become better people by thinking about others. We can show them we care about them by saying so and by doing nice things for them. Helping others will make you feel better, too.

I want you to know how much I care about all of you. Be kind to each other, take care of each other, and show your love for each other.

With best wishes, Laura Bush

Back to main text

See also:

14 Dec 00 | Americas
Laura: 'A fabulous First Lady'
13 Sep 01 | Education
City schools re-open with counselling
12 Sep 01 | Education
Children 'need to talk' about attacks
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