NEW YORK, NY - In a Hunter College classroom on New York's Upper East Side a Mercy Corps Comfort For Kids Program training session begins.
Mercy Corps Consultant and Hunter College School of Social Work graduate Alma Schneider is conducting a training session for 20 Master of Social Work students.
At the beginning of the session, the discussion focuses on how the actions of adults impact children in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
Why focus on adult behavior when we're supposed to be helping kids?
"Everyone has different ways of coping and deserves to have her needs met," Schneider explains. "Before adults can help kids cope, they need to take care of their own feelings."
Alma explains that Sept. 11 elicits a range of emotional responses in adults. While it is typical to feel fear, anger and denial, there are also positive responses to the disaster.
"I see more people getting married and having babies," one of the students notes. "I think they don't want to put off joy in their lives."
Schneider recommends considering positive changes and events that happened during the past year. She stresses the importance of emphasizing positive moments to children.
The Comfort For Kids program was originally scheduled to last three months after Sept. 11. During the past year, Mercy Corps has held over 230 training sessions helping train adults and parents to work with children who are affected by trauma and fear. Schneider says that a year after the events of Sept. 11 there is sill an intense need for targeted care and counseling.
"Most people not directly affected by the tragedy have not sought help," Schneider said.
During the session, Schneider emphasized developing strategies for teaching tolerance of other cultures because feelings of grief sometimes turn to anger and cultural bias.
In addition to helping children in New York cope with Sept. 11, the Comfort For Kids program can help kids cope with other crisis situations.
One Hunter College student said that he works with special needs children recently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The student observed that the training provides useful skills for working with these children as well as other kids facing immediate crisis.
"We have to be very specific with kids and show them that there is a future and that we need to help each other and be part of a community," Schneider said.