EARLY CHILDHOOD TODAY: At what age do the violent images children see begin to have an impact on their emotional wellbeing?
DR. GREENSPAN: From the age of 2, you can reasonably hypothesize that violent images on TV will scare youngsters. Even children under 2 will respond to the images on a TV screen, although it's not always clear what they're actually comprehending. I would be cautious even with children under 2.
ECT: Can teachers expect to see some of this violent activity acted out during children's play? And, if they do, how should they respond to it?
DR. GREENSPAN: One would expect to see a full range of themes in children's play that might be influenced by the current events. Some children who are more prone to acting out their anxieties will certainly show aggression and impulsivity in their play. Other children may show more fear and anxiety. Still others may simply shut down and be less imaginative. In other words, each child can respond quite differently to stress like this. But children, particularly young children, will be most affected by the climate in their homes.
ECT: What can teachers do to help children who to feel worried and anxious as a result of these events?
DR. GREENSPAN: Teachers and parents need to be aware that, in times like this when everyone is worried and scared, children require a number of basics. First, they need an enhanced sense of security — more soothing and nurturing. Adults also need to help children articulate their concerns and talk about their scary feelings. And listen to all the feelings. Try not to cut them short. Help them verbalize all the scary and angry and disappointed feelings. But if the child is avoiding talking, don't press him. Come back to the topic periodically and just open up the subject by talking about how you're feeling. You can also let children know what you're doing, and also what the authorities are doing to provide extra safety. And help children understand that they are safe.
Finally, teachers and parents should keep in mind that children of all ages like to contribute. They feel better when they're a part of the process. Some schools and families are helping to raise funds for families that have been directly involved, or making cards for people who are in the hospital. Having projects where children can contribute is very good.