September 11th, 2001 changed America. We were attacked on our own soil. Our safety and security rattled forever. Like most of us, you remember what you were doing that day. I do. The images we all saw that day are etched into our minds. We saw the two planes hitting the World Trade Center, the first responders rushing to help and the collapsing towers. They are tough images for anyone, especially children.
Now, as we approach the anniversary of the attacks, children who were not old enough to remember the events of 9/11 or not even born yet are starting to ask questions about what happened that day. It’s not an easy topic to discuss but it is one that should not be avoided.
1. Be Honest with Your Kids. Answer their questions about what happened but gear it towards their age and understanding. You don’t want to overwhelm young children with a very adult topic. Make sure you give facts. There are still many unanswered questions about what happened and you need to make sure you are honest and tell them, that there are somethings we don’t know. Let the kids ask the question so you don’t overwhelm them.
2. Help Kids Feel Safe. Instead of focusing on al Qaeda and the fight against terrorism, talk to the kids about how things have gotten safer with tighter airport and building security Talk about how first responders rush to help people who were hurt. Young kids will relate to the bravery of firefighters and paramedics. If your kids are older, talk about the terrorists that have been killed or captured after the attacks. It would be best not to talk about the threat of terrorism. You don’t want children to feel unsafe.
3. Limit How Many Images of 9/11. On the anniversary of the attacks, the images will be seen everywhere. Some of them are not appropriate for young children to see. Others will be shown over and over again as we remember what happened on September 11th, 2001. Make sure when children are looking at images of the day, you discuss what you are seeing. Children will react differently to what they see.
4. Focus on Rebuilding and Hope. Show your kids what has happened at Ground Zero since the attack. Take your children to see the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial. When you do this make sure to focus on how these are places to honor those who died that day and remembering all the people who helped search for survivors.
5. Be Prepared to Discuss Again. As the anniversary passes and your kids think about your discussion, they will have questions. Be prepared to talk about the events of 9/11 again. Kids will have questions, as they process what they’ve seen and heard.
There’s no right or wrong way to go about talking about the events of September 11th. As parents in a post 9/11 world, we have new challenges to face every day that our parents didn’t. Just remember to use the best approach for what your child can handle. Each child will react differently. You know your child best.