BOARDMAN Doctor: Be honest with kids about feelings

Getting back to a family routine reassures children of their well-being, the doctor said.
BOARDMAN -- Adults need to express their feelings among themselves, encourage their children to express their thoughts and emotions, and try to return families to daily routines, a Forum Health psychiatrist said here Tuesday.
"You need to talk" in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Dr. Robert Algaier. "We need to acknowledge with each other what kind of feelings we're going through," he said during a sparsely attended public forum at The Georgetown.
The forum explored strategies for coping with the impact of terrorism and the newly launched war against it.
"Those are universal feelings -- anxiety, sleeplessness, powerlessness, helplessness," the doctor reassured the audience, which consisted entirely of adults. "If you're going to be of any value to your children, you have to take care of yourself first."
Reason for attending: One of those in attendance was Zenovia Tunanidas of Poland, a retired special education teacher, who said she sought information to help her three grandchildren cope with recent events.
She recalled her 4-year-old grandnephew was in nursery school, where the children saw the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 on television, and the teacher explained in terms they understood that the towers had fallen and many people were lost.
"Is God going to take them one by one, or all together?" her grandnephew asked his mother.
"The younger they are, you need to let them bring it up where they are, and not take them to your level," the doctor advised.
Ask questions: If young children, who were previously comfortable in their own bedrooms, now wish to sleep in their parents' bedroom, or now always want a parent at their side, this presents an opportunity for parents to ask them questions. "Ask them: 'Are you scared? What's wrong? What is scaring you?'" he advised.
"One of the ways kids communicate is through play and through drawing. If you put a piece of paper and some pencils in front of a child, or crayons, they will draw their feelings," he said, adding that children can then be prompted to explain what they drew.
For healthy development, most children "need a predictable, consistent environment," he said. "As the caretakers or parents, we need to provide routine, and, as monotonous as it is, kids look forward to having routine. That's what reassures kids that we're OK and that they're going to be OK."
Only 10 people attended the informal discussion, including social workers and psychiatric nurses. Dr. Algaier said the low attendance may be a sign that people are getting their lives back to normal, or, on the other hand, it could be a sign of people's anxiety about discussing recent events.