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Explaining 9/11

Younger children and tweens were either very small or not even born when the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked on 9/11/ 01. Those killed were parents to some, children of others, sisters and brothers of many and friends to even more.

Kids were older when Osama Bin Laden was killed, but many of them were still quite young. Many people are dead but the topic is alive, as it should be. This topic presents a very tricky area regarding what to tell our kids, and how to do so.

Explain that violence was used in the Osama Bin Laden situation, and this is not something that we rejoice about.

With toddlers and young children who aren’t in school yet, there is no reason to discuss this aspect of our country’s history. They will not understand and may become overwhelmed, anxious and confused. There is no good reason to talk to them about it. There will be plenty of time later when they are developmentally ready to understand.

With school-age children, it is inevitable that they will learn about 9/11 and its aftermath and hear about it from friends. It's important to talk to these kids, but very carefully and gingerly. Here are some tips to help guide your discussion.

1. Sit down with your school-age children and give them a history lesson. Provide them with the facts about what happened. Explain that sadly, innocent people were killed by terrorists. Let them know that terrorists may become violent when they get angry and that we as a country are doing everything we can to deal with terrorists and keep safe.

2. Explain that although we try to use peaceful methods of conflict resolution at all times, the situation with Osama Bin Laden was very different. He was still threatening innocent people.

3. Explain further that we all should and will do our best to resolve conflict peacefully in the future, as this is the most humanistic way to behave. Explain that violence was used in the Osama Bin Laden situation, and this is not something that we rejoice about. Violence is a tragedy for everyone involved.

4. Allow your children to ask questions as you speak to them. Spare them the gruesome details, which will only create nightmares.

5. Do not overwhelm your children of any age with media coverage of 9/11. The images may be terrifying.

6. Ask your kids to repeat back to you what they have learned from you so that you can check for misunderstandings and distortions.

7. Reassure them that 9/11 was an exception, not a usual event, and that is why it made the news. Let then know in as reassuringly a manner as possible that you as parents and the country are both doing everything possible to keep them safe.

8. Talk to them about the bravery and courage of firemen, policemen and other rescue workers who risked their lives to help others. In the face of tragedy, people came together to help strangers, and that was a beautiful thing.

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