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In the Shadow of Fear

Living with violence, disaster, and war

by Barbara Laufersweiler

The terror attacks on the U.S. on September 11, the nation's resulting military activities, and biological terrorism such as anthrax have brought new fears and worries into our lives and our children's lives. What can we do?

The experts are unanimous: return to your normal routines, keep the TV and other news to a minimum, and create opportunities for your children to express their thoughts and emotions. These three actions will help enormously as you and your children learn to manage these new fears and concerns.

There are many ways for children to express in a helpful way what's going on in their hearts. From conversation and well-chosen stories to artwork, thoughtful play, and time spent outdoors, you can plan activities that will help your child work through his or her emotions and thoughts.

Many basic questions about life and death, God, evil, and war will probably arise. Do your best to answer what you can, and for the rest, wonder aloud with your child. You can definitely provide a faith-filled response to your children's fears or concerns.

In addition, if any of your family has experienced serious trauma in the past, those once traumatized may find it much more difficult to handle these events. If life doesn't feel somewhat normal most of the time at this point after the Sept. 11 attacks, it's time to talk with a doctor, therapist, or priest. It's important to ask for help so you or your child can find the way to what so many are calling a "new normal."

Be sure to turn to your faith community and your network of family, friends, and neighbors. Go to church and Sunday school more regularly, and any special services or activities that interest you or your children. Get together with or contact your extended family a bit more often. Set up the play dates you've been meaning to plan. Invite a neighbor over for coffee.

The company of friends, family, and your faith community makes life richer at all times, and is priceless in times of worry or stress.

This process will go on as long as it needs to, if you continue to create opportunities for self-expression and respond to your family's other needs as they arise. In the midst of these new fears and concerns, your family can find its own "new normal," founded on God's care for us.

Barbara Laufersweiler is an at-home mom, an Episcopalian, and the creator of Faith at Home,, a Web site offering help to parents as they explore and enjoy faith with their children. Copyright © 2001 Barbara K. Laufersweiler. All rights reserved.

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Copyright © 2002 Barbara Laufersweiler
Last updated June 18, 2001


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