How to Talk to Children About 9/11
The anniversary of 9/11 is always a painful one but there is also the desire to honor the dead, the families who bore the burden of the attack, and the things we stand for as a nation. We celebrate resilience and renewal even as we vow not to forget. For many younger children, 9/11 isn’t something they lived through, but a piece of history, something they learn about in school.
Here are some guidelines for talking to kids about 9/11.
- Take your cues from your child—each child, individually, if you have more than one. For those old enough to remember the events of 9/11, let them tell you what the anniversary means to them, what they remember, and how they feel about it.
- Be age appropriate. If a child is too young to remember 9/11, consider their age in deciding whether this is a good time for her to learn about it, or learn more about it.
- Don’t answer questions that aren’t asked. Children as young as first grade are learning about 9/11 in school, as an important part of our history. But there’s no reason to volunteer disturbing or frightening details unless a child has heard them and needs a reality check from you.
- Try to avoid exposing children to the intrusive, repetitive TV news coverage, especially the pictures of 9/11.
- Help them feel safe. They want to know “are we safe today?”
- Focus on resilience. If you go to a memorial, talk to kids in advance about why you’re going, focusing on honoring those who died, and celebrating the resilience of both the nation and the individual families who lost loved ones.
- Don’t focus on hatred.
- Don’t feel you have only one chance to talk about this. It’s better to think of tough issues as an ongoing conversation, which develops as kids grow and change. If you feel you haven’t gotten it right the first time, give yourself a break and try again later.