an international organization, provides a bridge to emotional
healing for children, adolescents, and adults confronting death,
divorce or other painful family transitions. RAINBOWS has developed
age-directed curricula and training for community volunteers to
establish grief support groups in communities by linking schools,
churches, synagogues, and agencies with families in need.
The RAINBOWS organization has developed an
excellent program with concepts and tenants that appropriately
address the crisis we currently face as a nation. The international
office has responded to the horrific events of September 11, 2001
by compiling a packet that can be used in response to inquiries
about children's grief. These materials can also be used continuously
since grief is often a long-term process for children and adults.
For example, "Children and teens need
adults to guide them through the reality and aftermath of the
recent terrorist attacks in Washington and New York," says
Suzy Yehl Marta, president and founder of the RAINBOWS international
grief-support organization. "This is an unprecedented crisis.
As the caregivers and protectors of our youth, it is our obligation
to help them. Working together, we will learn to pick up and move
forward," she said.
The organization has served nearly one million
youth struggling with emotional issues of death, divorce, and
family loss. The organization's crisis programs have also been
implemented in violence-torn Northern Ireland, in the aftermath
of large-scale natural disasters in the U.S., and to assist families
devastated by the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.
To help children and teens cope with America's
crisis, Marta suggests: adults and kids watch and/or read TV and
newspaper reports together. This allows you to see and hear what
the child is learning about the event and to limit the children's
exposure to media coverage. Too much information can be overwhelming,
especially for younger children.
Marta advises parents to sit close to their
children and to act as tactile as possible cuddling, hugging,
touching arm or shoulder even with teens or older children.
Maintain the child or teen's routine. Following normal schedules
for school, homework, activities and bedtime, provides much needed
structure during the chaos.
Acknowledge the tragedy. Explain and share the facts as best as you can. If
children aren't told the real facts, they create their own, sometimes
even more terrifying versions of events. At the same time, limit
the child's exposure to media coverage to keep him or her from
Talk to them about what has happened. Don't wait for the child to initiate the conversation.
It's the adult's job to start the discussion. Use words children
understand, share your feelings and thoughts, and more importantly,
Use games and propose to stimulate conversation. Hands-on, age-appropriate activities help children
and teens articulate their thoughts, feelings and concerns.
Give the child a piece of paper and ask him or her to draw a picture
of the tragedy and/or picture of how they are feeling. Then talk
about what they've drawn.
Ask the child to play the role of reporter and to interview you
(classmates or friends) about the attacks. Encourage the child
to ask the questions that they want to know the answers to. For
example: What happened? What did you see? How has the tragedy
affected you? How do you feel? How should we react to what happened?
Teens: Give the
adolescent a lump of clay and ask him or her to mold it to reflect
their feelings or thoughts about what they've watched on television
or read in the newspapers.
Answer all questions as best you can. If you're unsure of the information, it's okay to
say, "I don't know." At the same time you are giving
children information, it's important to determine just how much
they understand about recent events. Ask them what they think
Be patient. As
time passes, chances are questions and concerns will increase.
"We live in a diverse country with people of many nationalities
and races," says Marta. "We should not blame them for
the tragedy or be afraid of any of them." Assure children
that the government will learn who is responsible for the attacks
and will respond accordingly.
Offer assurance for the future. Explain government security measures; tell the children
how these are being strengthened and what steps are being taken
to prevent, as far as humanly possible, another attack of this
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System has
three registered RAINBOWS directors. They are Extension Family
and Human Development Specialist Dr. Wilma J. Ruffin at Alabama
A&M University, County Extension Agent Janice Harper in Jefferson
County-Birmingham, and County Extension Agent Amanda Outlaw in
Mobile County-Mobile. For more information about RAINBOWS, please
contact these individuals as follows:
Dr. Ruffin 256-858-4960 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mrs. Harper 256-325-5342 (email@example.com)
Mrs. Outlaw 256-574-8445 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For a packet of activities that can be used
during this crisis, please contact the agency at:
2100 Golf Road, #370
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
1-800-266-3206 or email: email@example.com