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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Even youngest Americans are affected by Sept. 11

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

SIKESTON - From the rubble and horror of what happened Sept. 11, 2001, Americans rose to the surface and became stronger than ever.

"The events of Sept. 11 have made some people more aware of the price we pay for the freedoms we enjoy in the United States," remarked Taryn LeGrand-Lovett of Bootheel Counseling Services. "There is a heightened sense of patriotism and pride we take in our country and those who defend it. Generally, people seem to have more appreciation for their family members, friends and fellow Americans."

And it's not just the adults who've undergone some attitude adjusting and soul searching. Sept. 11 has spurred some positive changes in even the youngest Americans.

Jordan Denning said he's not the same person he was a year ago. "I appreciate my family more," said the fourth-grader, who noted today at school the students will sing patriotic songs.

Nine-year-old Madeleine Comer hasn't asked an over abundance of questions about what happened since that day, but she still keeps the families of those who died or have yet to be found in her prayers.

"She was a second-grader at the time and we really didn't talk about it a lot when it first happened," recalled her mother, Susan, a counselor at Sikeston Kindergarten Center. "We did try to limit the television watching for awhile. Some of the news was graphic and there were a lot of hysterical people. But when we would watch television we'd talk about how sad it was that we as a country try to help other countries and that this would happen to us.

"My brother used to go to the Pentagon regularly with one of his jobs and the part that was destroyed was the area he'd been in before," said Comer. "One of his friends was taking his daughter to the doctor or he would have been in the Pentagon when it happened, so we would talk about positive things like that. Jeff and I tried to keep it on a personal level. We talked about the fact that it was a pretty awful thing that happened but that even in the midst of all of this, God was there."

Comer said she and her husband also explained to their daughter that the terrorists targeted Washington and New York because they were large cities that are important to the U.S., reassuring her that there was no reason to fear something similar would happen here.

"That's something we talked about as a school team also," Comer added. "We discussed that if the kids wanted to talk about it we'd and let them know they didn't need to be afraid."

Today, as America honors those they lost Sept. 11, news coverage on the anniversary will be heavy. While adults may be prepared for what they see on television, the images could be as disturbing to children as was the original event coverage, cautions a child development specialist at the University of Missouri.

"Parents should always monitor what their children watch on television," Sandi Lillard, coordinator of parenting, said in a news release for ParentLink, an MU-based resource for parents and others involved in children's lives. "It's extra important to keep tabs on children during the anniversary of the 9-11 tragedies."

ParentLink, part of the 4-H youth development office in Missouri, provides support to parents, childcare providers and communities by creating educational programs and offers resources on parenting and working with children.

Jordan admits he's worried about what will unfold today. "I'm scared," he whispered. "I'm afraid they're going to try to do something else, like crash into the White House."

Parents should watch for unusual behavior that might be a signal that they are bothered or upset. Some things to watch for might be differences in sleeping or eating habits, nightmares, crying more than usual, more clingy to parents, more aggressive play and becoming withdrawn.

Charles Reaves, 4-H youth specialist with the University Missouri Extension Office in New Madrid, pointed out the influence 9-11 has had on adults is perceived by children and affects their outlook, moods and their level of personal safety on a daily basis.

"How today, the anniversary of 9-11, affects young people depends on how what they see from the adult role models in their lives," he explained. "If they see pessimism on the part of adults they will become negative. However, if they see a positive perspective from adult role models they will feel more secure and face the future with security and optimism."

He said parents can help alleviate their children's fears. "It is important we are honest with our children while remembering to not over burden with too many details. As a general rule, respond to the questions the child asks with few if any additional details. How we as adults respond to today will be a great influence on our children.

"Children live in an adult world and look to us for safety and security," added Reaves. "When catastrophic events happen such as 9-11, they have difficulty sorting through facts and fiction. Many times the results are incorrect perceptions and additional confusion along with insecurity in their lives."

For more tips relating to children and 9-11 log onto http://outreach.missouri.edu/parentlink or call 1-800-552-8522.