New Guide Offers African American Families Help to Cope with Crises

African American parents now have an important new resource to help them support their children in times of stress or crisis. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) have developed an Activity Book for African American Families: Helping Children Cope with Crisis.

The Activity Book for African American Families was developed by the African American Parents' Project, a collaboration between families, professional organizations, and leaders of national African American organizations, to provide African American families and communities with activities and resources to comfort their children in times of crisis. The project, begun shortly after the September 11th terrorist attacks, is designed to help African American families console their children who may become frightened by repeated media coverage of terrorism, war, and violence, and instill in them a sense of safety.

"Parents have the most important job in the world - one that is even more challenging and more difficult when children try to make sense of reports of violence and heightened threat alerts in the media," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the NICHD. "This activity book is designed to empower families to address everyday hardships and also to strengthen families for times of major crisis."

In developing this booklet, the NICHD and the NBCDI listened to parents' concerns and suggestions about what they needed to help their children cope with crisis situations. A number of African American organizations provided their expertise and assistance in developing the workbook and are committed to helping promote it.

"This project has a deep meaning for our community because many African American families live with daily violence and other issues," said Evelyn Moore, president of NBCDI. "These daily struggles are compounded by war and the threat of terrorism, which have a great impact on our children. During this time of renewal and new resolutions, we encourage families to spend some time doing the activities together."

The book's activities are designed to work well with children ages 12 and under by helping parents communicate with their children to strengthen the family and help children feel safe. In addition, the activities help parents talk with children about emotions - to find ways to express thoughts and feelings that might be hard to say out loud. By talking about these things, families can begin to deal with feelings in positive, constructive ways. The activities also highlight important values, such as family, honesty, and spirituality, which can strengthen children from within.

Many of the activities tap into children's creativity-drawing, coloring, singing, gardening¾ which encourage children to let others know what's going on inside them in a safe, controlled way. Other activities encourage parents and children to read a poem or a story, or listen to a song as a way of refocusing children's attention on calming thoughts.

The Activity Book contains specific advice for parents about how to:

  • Encourage their child to feel hopeful about the future
  • Listen to their child
  • Comfort their child
  • Help their child feel good about him or herself
  • Help their child feel safe
  • Give their child information that is appropriate for her/his age
  • Make a plan with their child for emergencies
  • Share their faith with their child

Among the organizations that provided advice to the NICHD and the NBCDI on this project are: 100 Black Men of America, Inc.; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; American Psychiatric Association; Congress of National Black Churches, Inc.; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Jack and Jill of America, Inc; National Association of Black Social Workers; National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc.; and the National Medical Association.

The Activity Book for African American Families is free and can be ordered through the NICHD Web site, or by calling the NICHD Information Resource Center at 1-800-370-2943 or via e-mail at Information on Helping Children Cope with Crisis is also available on the National Black Child Development Institute Web site at External Web Site Policy


The NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the biomedical research arm of the federal government. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. NICHD publications, as well as information about the Institute, are available from the NICHD Web site,, or from the NICHD Information Resource Center, 1-800-370-2943; e-mail

The National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), founded in 1970, exists to improve and protect the quality of life of African-American children, children of color, and their families. NBCDI programs and initiatives reflect our commitment to young people. For more information, contact NBCDI by phone (202) 833-2220, visit our Web site External Web Site Policy, or email

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