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4 FEELING SAFE AGAIN BiNet Offers Workshops and Counseling Left to right: Dr. Joseph Geliebter, Executive Director of Comprehensive Network, Inc. Dr. Rona Novak of LIJ, Leah Schlager, Dir. of Professional Services. For children…re-enacting the events of September 11 through play is completely normal and even beneficial. She explained that while all of us want our children to empathize with the suffer- ing of others, emphasizing only the horrific aspects  of  traumatic  events  is  damaging. According  to  Novak,  “growing  up  is  not easy. It’s especially hard to do if you’re al- ways looking over your shoulder and wor- rying about impending doom.” In  order  for  our  children  to  grow  up healthy, we need to point out to them that there are positive aspects to traumas. In the case of 9/11, we can focus on miraculous escapes  experienced  by  people  we  know and the fact that our families are able to be together now. Addressing  the  differences  in  the  way adults  and  children  react  to  tragedy,  she pointed out that while adults become sad, children  often  become  irritated  and  even belligerent. These feelings can lead to in- creased  stress  at  home  and  affect  perfor- mance in school. She reassured parents that re-enacting  the  events  of  September  11 through play is completely normal and even beneficial. “If you watch kids playing out the events of 9/11, you’ll see that there is always a happy ending,” said Novak. “The fish sticks or Legos standing in for the twin towers become stronger and magical men come in to divert the airplanes,” she con- tinued. Novak explained that since play is the one area where kids can exercise con- trol and manipulate the end result, it is the healthiest way to work out trauma issues. Dr. Joseph Geliebter, clinical psycholo- gist and executive director of Comprehen- sive  Outreach,  commented,  “As  child therapists,  we  are  trained  to  use  play  for younger children as the primary modality for expression of their thoughts and feel- ings. When young children observe trau- matic  events,  they  often  re-enact  in  their play  the  themes  of  their  trauma,  thereby gaining a measure of control.” The following are some simple but posi- tive suggestions: • Recognize that parents are role mod- els. Children take their cues from parents in terms of how to react. If parents become glued  to  the  TV  news  or  nervous  about traveling  anywhere,  children  will  act  the same way. Adopt a cautious, but calm ap- proach.  Parents  can  teach  their  children that while we care about the tragedy’s vic- tims, we must continue living our lives. • Teach and inform. Don’t let children operate under misconceptions that may lead to fears that are not grounded in reality. • Be a source of comfort. While no one can guarantee that he or she will live for- ever, offer the reassurance that as long as you are alive, you will do everything pos- sible to take care of them and keep them safe. • Spend time with the kids. In the after- math  of  trauma,  every  child  can  benefit from more physical contact and the emo- tional  connection  that  comes  from  heart- to-heart discussions. • Offer suggestions for positive actions children  can  take  to  help  the  families  of those who died in the World Trade Center. Saving  allowance  and  sending  a  check  to the American Red Cross or writing letters to firemen thanking them for their efforts are  ways  that  children  can  make  a  differ- ence and take control. Novak concluded by encouraging par- ents  to  talk  out  their  own  feelings  with friends  or  colleagues.  She  explained  that trauma leaves debris in the brain that needs to be cleared out before victims can heal. Talking to friends or a professional thera- pists may be necessary in order to move on and begin to cope with the horrors experi- enced personally or vicariously by all of us. In  1993,  Comprehensive  developed  a special  program  entitled  “Feeling  Safe Again™” offered to survivors following the 1993 WTC bombing. Comprehensive Out- reach has updated the program, making it applicable  for  professional  staff  develop- ment,  parenting  and  student  workshops and  specialized  counseling  and  consulta- tions. Recently, a special federal WTC Disas- ter  grant  has  been  made  available  to  all schools to deal with the aftermath of Sep- tember  11th.  BiNet  Inc./Comprehensive Outreach is approved by the New York City Board  of  Education  to  provide  these  and other services in all NYC schools. To learn more about the services and workshops, call 718-339-9700, ext. 290 or 718-339-3379, ext. 232. I t’s  been  six  months  since  Septem- ber 11, yet most families in the New York  area  are  still  struggling  with the  emotional  fallout  of  the  World  Trade Center tragedy. What do you do when your pre-schooler is having nightmares and your six-year-old’s  new  vocabulary  include  the words “terrorism” and “Taliban?” In a spe- cial workshop co-sponsored by BiNet, Inc. / Comprehensive Network , entitled Coping with the Aftermath of September 11; Dr. Rona Novak, a child and adolescent psychologist at LIJ, discussed how to balance the desire to  raise  socially-conscious  children  with the need to provide them a safe haven. Photo by Ivan Norman