U.S. attacks Iraq

U.S. attacks Iraq The United States may have been at the brink of war last week, but that didn't stop second-graders at Austin Elementary School from holding their customary Flag Friday observance at the end of the school day. Students and their teachers gathered around the flag pole as the stars and stripes were lowered, and then walked back to school in a boulevard lined with American flags. by David Lias As U.S. warplanes dropped bombs on Iraq Wednesday night, officially marking the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a USD professor noted that families should be concerned about more than just servicemen and women who may be in harm's way.

It's also time, said Dr. Gil Reyes, an assistant professor of psychology in the Disaster Mental Health Institute at USD, to take steps to ease the worries of children in these uncertain times.

"One thing I would do is listen to my child, and try to understand what my child's worries were," he said. "That would be very helpful, because I might guess at what my child's worries were, and I might be wrong."

Reyes said many times children are both worried and curious.

"We don't only want to be able to help them not to worry, but we also want to help them to learn, because that's going to help them feel better, too," he said. "They may be curious: 'Why is my dad or my mom gone? What's going to happen to them? What's going to happen to other people?' Rather than dismiss the child's interests, or become irritable or annoyed with it ? I would find a time when there were not distractions and just say to the child that we can talk whatever you want to talk about."

Instead of asking whether the child is worried about the war, Reyes suggests adults ask children if they are curious about it. If children are worried, he said, they'll express that sentiment.

The war's opening salvos Wednesday were aimed directly at Iraq's leaders, including Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials said, providing no details of how the intelligence was developed that made them believe they knew where he was.

The Associated Press reported that commanders relied on more than 40 cruise missiles

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launched from Navy ships in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea and 2,000-pound precision-guided bombs dropped by Air Force stealth fighter jets, military officials said.

Still to come was the main air offensive against Iraq, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

There was no indication whether the initial attack was successful, but about two hours after the strikes, Saddam appeared on television to offer fresh condemnation of the American president.

In a four-minute speech to the nation Wednesday night, Bush said his goal is "to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger."

He pledged that U.S.-led troops would spare innocents from harm wherever possible and "will be coming home as soon as their work is done."

Bush asked for American patience if the days turn into weeks or longer. "A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict," Bush said.

He had given the go-ahead to attack just after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that before the fresh intelligence emerged, military advisers originally did not intend to begin the assault Wednesday.

Wednesday night's happenings may have stirred worries in young people in Vermillion and other communities across the nation, Reyes said.

"If they are worried, it may be the best thing for them to do is worry," he said. "I know that may not sound right to most people, but that's a healthy response.

"When a kid is confused, and is afraid they might lose somebody they love, or that they themselves might get hurt, worrying is a sign that things are working okay with them," he said.

Adults can help children deal with those worries, he said, simply by caring for each other.

"We can say to our children is that what we're going to do is what we know how to do," Reyes said. "We're going to spend time together. We're going to take good care of each other, and we're going to the others things we usually do."

Those activities may range from spending time together, to praying together, he said.

People across the nation have been questioning whether they should maintain their current lifestyles, or take special steps to help their children deal with the stresses of terrorism and war � especially if war has taken family members away.

"I'm not going to take sides in that debate," Reyes said. "I'm just saying that kids need a predictable routine. So the best thing for them is not to change too many things, if you can help it."

He said one thing that parents often do is indulge their children with treats, toys, etc. to make them feel better. That's not always healthy, he said, because, while they seem comforting, they build an expectation in the child that his or her routine is going to change.

"I would keep them going to school, I would keep them getting their homework done," Reyes said. "I would say, 'We're going to go on with our lives. It's unfortunate that these things are happening, but we can't let other people control us that much. We have to continue to do what we know is right.'"

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