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Publication #FAR0012

Managing the Stress of War and Terrorism: Guidelines for Families1

Suzanna Smith2

The images we see on our televisions or in our papers every day can be frightening. The headlines about war and terrorism have become commonplace since the horrific scenes of September 11, 2001.

War and terrorism are scary for children and families. Children of all ages may overhear adult conversations or see the acts of war or terror on the news, and, unfortunately, even in the classroom. These events may be unsettling and stressful for children and their families, making it hard to concentrate and go about daily routines. Stress for prolonged periods can either erode a family's health or the family can become resilient during these difficult times. Families can bounce back from adversity and become even stronger.

If a family is showing signs of stress, such as family members pulling apart from one another or getting too close, having frequent disagreements that aren't solved, or blaming one or two family members for problems, the family may need to stop and take stock of the situation and seek solutions. For example, listen to the children. Don't push aside their fears. Let them share their feelings. Cut down on stressful activities and find time to exercise. Regular exercise can reduce stress. Likewise, avoid alcohol and cigarettes. They can cloud your judgment and lower your energy. Think positive. Try to be optimistic about the future. Remember, families and the country have survived tough times before!

You may also consider seeking professional help. If you're overwhelmed, depressed, have thoughts of suicide, or suffer from substance abuse problems, find a professional you can talk to. Your doctor, clergy, or mental health association can help you find someone who is trained to help.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

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This document is FAR0012, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Broadcast as program 072 and published December 2007. Reviewed March 2012. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida, and Senior Producer, Family Album Radio, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.