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New York City
May 2003

Keeping Calm In Troubling Times

These are troubling times for all of us. We cannot open the newspaper or turn on the television without hearing that we are in the midst of war and at the same time that we are on alert for acts of terrorism. The traumatic events of September 11, 2001 are still vivid in all of our memories, including the memories of our children. What can we do for our children and for ourselves to keep calm and regain feelings of security?

It seems the best thing we can do to feel safe is to plan for the worst and make plans on how to deal with a crisis should it occur. In our district we are again going over our emergency management plans, making sure that each individual knows what are his or her specific responsibilities. We are stocking up on supplies we might need should we have to keep the students and staff in the schools for an extended period of time, and we are doing all of this with the hope that all of our preparations will go unused.

Whether or not children are asking questions, it is certain that they are concerned about the talk they hear all around them. I suggest you try to be keenly aware of who is in the room when you watch the news and when you express your own fears and worries. Remarks made tongue-in-cheek or in a dark humor meant to defuse feelings of tension may be taken quite literally by young children and give them further reasons for anxiety.

This is also the time to have a discussion about the media with your children. Explain that it is typical of the news business that stories are repeated over and over and that news is sensationalized for the purpose of grabbing your attention and holding it. Point out to them that at times when we get a snowflake or two, the weather service reports it as if we will be experiencing a full-blown blizzard. Itís simply exaggeration and overplay to get you to keep watching for further news.

Still, we cannot completely deny that there is a need for added attention to safety. Make sure your children know how to reach you when you are out, and that they keep you informed on their plans when going out to a friendís house or elsewhere. Identify also for them some other family or friends that they can turn to in case of an emergency.

Finally, remind yourself and your children that we are living in a very powerful country where every effort is being made by the government to keep us safe from harm. Try to keep your sense of humor and optimism strong and make time to have great experiences with your family.#

Dr. Hankin is superintendent of Syosset Central School District. Randi Sachs is Public Information Officer of Syosset Schools.

 

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