Almost a year after the September 11th attacks, researchers still saw children crashing toy airplanes into towers of blocks.
Children often cope with tragedy through play, according to Roberta Schomburg with the Fred Rogers Center.
“Children can't always articulate what it is they want to know and so it is very important to pay attention to the kinds of things that they're pretending about or the kinds of things they're drawing. It gives us an avenue for having a conversation,” she said.
Schomburg will be speaking at the Rodef Shalom Congregation this Sunday at 9 a.m. about how to support children in times of crisis. The talk is open to the public.
It’s been nearly six weeks since the Tree of Life shooting. Schomburg said some children might still be dealing with the trauma. They could be scared and looking for reassurance that adults in their lives are trying to keep them safe.
While children affected by the September 11th attacks were fascinated with planes, Schomburg said children in Pittsburgh might be more curious about guns. She says if adults notice an increased fixation on guns, they should use those signs as a way to talk about the attack.
“I think I also think it's important for them to understand it's OK to feel afraid and it's OK to feel angry that we all feel this way from time to time. But it's what we do with the anger and what we do about the fear that really makes a difference. If the fear forces us to withdraw from interacting with others...that's the problem. If the anger makes us do aggressive things to other people then that's a problem. So it's it's how we handle the feelings not the fact that we have feelings,” she said.
Schomburg also draws from something Fred Rogers used to call “making goodness attractive.” She said adults should point out kind things they notice to children. Families can also recover together by volunteering or writing a letter to a loved one.
“If we’re not as adults modeling those kinds of responses and behaviors, then children are going to imitate what we do not necessarily what we say they should do,” she said.