How Do You Talk to your Kids About September 11th?

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This Wednesday marks the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. On that day, over 3,000 people lost their lives during four targeted attacks on U.S. Soil—The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where a plane hijacked by members of Al Qaeda was flown into a field by passengers who were trying to stop it from flying into a building in Washington, D.C. More than 6.000 people were injured and left us wondering—WHY?

My oldest was 7 years old at the time of the 9/11 attacks. At the time, I didn’t know what to say to him. He didn’t ask any questions, but he knew something happened. I wasn’t prepared to discuss it with him, and I guess he knew that because he never broached the subject with me. We kind of tried to go back to business as usual shortly afterwards, but it was hard. We lived by the airport and for 4 days, never heard a plane fly by or rattle the house. As a mother, I failed because I didn’t explain to him the enormity of what had happened.

My other child was not born at the time of 9/11, and now she is 7 and I don’t want to make the same mistake with her that I did with my son. When she was 5 years old, I sat down with her on 9/11 and explained to her what happened on that day. We watched several programs honoring those that lost their lives, and when I visited the site of Ground Zero last year, I shared the pictures with her and my son. I didn’t want it to be a secret—I wanted her to express how she felt about the tragedy and know that she could ask me any questions.

I ask the question of how do you talk to your kids about September 11th because for many years, I didn’t know how to broach the subject. And now that we have an open forum in my home to discuss the disaster, I want to hear from others so I can also implement other methods.

This year, my daughter and I will be watching the many specials and documentaries about September 11th. I want her to always remember what happened, and that it can happen again. Not to scare her, but to let them know that there are still people out there that want to hurt us and cause us pain. I would rather be honest with my kids than to sugarcoat it, or pretend that it didn’t happen. Or to forget.

How do you talk to your kids about September 11th? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Below are pictures I took at the Tribute WTC Visitors Center at Ground Zero in NYC.


Comments

  1. says

    My son was just 6 when it happened and I know that it frightened him and I remember telling him it was ok and that we would be ok. BUT I also remember that internally I was paralyzed by the events and I know I was glued to the TV for several days and he was home with me so I’m positive I didn’t handle it well. Since then we have talked about it a lot from a USA citizen aspect, a human, aspect, a political aspect, etc. He actually would like to join the military even and I think much of that is due to the documentaries he has seen on the topic.

    Great post!
    Robyn Wright of Robyn’s Online WorldÃ�´s last blog post ..Grocery Shopping Lists

    • says

      Thanks for commenting, Robyn. Yes, its a difficult subject to discuss, because even as adults, I know it makes us sad to recall that time. I want to be honest with my little one, but not scare her.

  2. says

    My son is only 2, but I plan to make sure he knows when the time is right. I agree that it could be really scary, so it requires a gentle touch. Even after ten years, I still have trouble wrapping my head around that day – and the knowledge that my little boy will only ever know a post-9/11 world. It’s sad, but there is also a sense of community that only happens during such disasters, and I’ll be sure to teach him about that too.

    • says

      Wendy, your son is such a cutie! At 2, he may be a little young but I know there are books written for his age group that you can read to him that explains what happened on 9/11. You are right about him not knowing what it was like before the terrorist attacks. Kind of sad when you think about it. Thanks for commenting.

  3. says

    This is something that we have to deal with this year, whether we want to or not. My son is now 6 and I am in the military and will be leaving on a deployment very soon. I not only have to explain the events of 9/11 to him, but also explain to him that because of those events, Mom will have to go fight in a war. He’s been too small to “get it” but we now know for a fact that he can comprehend what’s going on and what Mom does for a living, besides blogging. Since we are right in NJ, I have been thinking about taking him to the new memorial after we talk to him. At his age and level of comprehension, I don’t think we will need to sugar coat anything. It’s probably better if we don’t.
    This is a wonderful post. Thanks for getting us to think about this beforehand.

    • says

      Amiryah, I want to first off thank you for serving our country. It is because of you and other people in the armed forces that we are able to live the lives we lead. THANK YOU. I think it’s a great idea for you to take your son to the memorial, especially since you aren’t that far from NYC. I want to take my little one with me to see it one day. :)

  4. says

    When the towers came down 10 years ago, I had an 11 year old and a 9 year old. It was heartbreaking to have to explain to them what occurred on a global level. They were both at school when it happened, and it was terrifying for me as a parent – should I go get them? Was the world coming to an end? (We live in Southern Cal, so I was overreacting a bit!). I think the best way to introduce and discuss this topic is to make it part of a larger historical discussion – kind of like my parents did with us regarding the Holocaust. It’s part of the fabric of our country now – think of all the recent books, movies, etc that have referenced it. As long as you keep things age-appropriate, you’ll be fine!

    • says

      Sharon, you make some excellent points when you talk about discussing 9/11 with a historical viewpoint. I never thought of that, but my daughter loves history and the discussion of past events, so this will indeed come in handy during our talks Thank you!

  5. says

    On September 11, 2001, I was working as a social worker. I was running a group therapy session in the in-patient unit for adolescents in the only room in the unit that had a TV. Nurses, clinicians, counselors, doctors, etc. came running in to watch the scenes unfold on TV. Talk about being thrown into discussion about the day with 15 mentally ill children! I think that if you have a firm grasp of a child’s intellect level, emotional intelligence, etc…discussion about 9/11 can be done in an appropriate and gentle manner.
    Lauren HustonÃ�´s last blog post ..A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words…Forever

  6. says

    My daughter is two but if I’m still working at my current job I will have to tell her. She visits often and will want to know about the police presence and memorial etc. I am taking tips from here and other places. I’m stumped about how to discuss it – I can’t even discuss it with adults. Every day I look out my office window and I’m elated to see the progress but also quite nauseated to see a big hole. *sigh*
    Evil is so ugly but must be addressed

  7. Kristin says

    My son was 2months old at the time. I remember sitting on the couch feeding him and watching the events unfold on Good Morning American,and not believing what I was seeing. Just this past Sunday, my now 10 year old son, started asking out of the blue, what happend to the World Trade Center. I started to choke up because I wasn’t sure how to broach the subject. I tried to explain to him the events of that day. He thought that the buildings toppled over. I tried to explain to him that they came down on themselves, but I still don’t think he understands that. Then he preceeded to ask me about the people that jumped and if they survived!!! This was heartbreaking to have to explain to him that, no, they didn’t. His dad and I are divorced, and when I asked my son if he has seen any pictures or footage he said he hadn’t. I thought his dad would have for sure watched one of the many programs that day with them. I don’t have televison so I would only be able to show him on line. Is he too young still, to see any of the footage and pictures of the terrible day?

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