Leigh Kelly was having a difficult time talking to her son and daughter about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, so she wrote a book, her first.
The result, she hopes, will spark conversations between parents and children.
"Basically, we have a whole nation of traumatized children," Kelly said.
Kelly, a 35-year-old Kansas University senior in psychology, recently completed "Safe Space," an illustrated children's book about coping with the terrorist attacks.
The text, a poem, urges children to use deep breathing exercises and "safe spaces" imaginary places where nothing bad can happen to deal with tragedies. The book includes introductions for children and adults explaining the techniques.
"Those are pretty well tested psychological tools," Kelly said.
The book will be available for $8.95 at Borders Books, Music & Cafe starting this weekend.
It is illustrated by Lawrence resident Teresa Kelley. The book also incorporates artwork from fifth-graders at Olathe's Northview Elementary, where a friend teaches.
Kelly and Kelley started a company, Writework Studios, to publish the book. They hope to publish more in the future.
Both said their experiences with their own children helped with the book. Kelly has a 7-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter. Kelley, 41, has three sons and a daughter ages 16 to 21 and two granddaughters, ages 2 and 4.
"It kind of gives you a base to start with," Kelley said of the book. "It opens the door for them to talk about their feelings."
Kelly said adults often don't know what to say to children.
"A lot of the professionals out there are saying to remind (children) they're safe and they're not going to die," she said. "But really that's not true. What we're saying is, 'Being alive is dangerous and this can be a scary place, and we're on your side.' They saw bad things happen to good people."
Pat Roach Smith, community development director for the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, said children like adults deal with tragedy in different ways. For some, she said, the effects of Sept. 11 may just now be settling in.
She agreed that "calming activities" such as those in the book, working on an art project or singing songs, can help children cope.
She agreed it would be difficult to guarantee children they're safe in these uncertain times.
"I think we're all processing our grief," she said. "Right now, it's difficult to say to your child, 'I can protect you,' because none of us really know that. How can I tell my kid it's OK when I don't really know myself?"