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How to talk to young kids about 9/11

talking to your kids about 9/11

A collection of paintings by children for the Art for Heart 9/11 exhibit at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey in Sept. 2006. (Photo: Marc Love/Flickr)

Whitney Smith shares how to talk to kids about the tragic 9/11 attack on September 11, 2001. Whitney is a world-changer who sets an example for her own daughter through her organization Girls for a Change. She is the CEO and founder of this national organization that empowers girls to create social change. Change starts with you.

 

Talking to kids about September 11th

Honesty is best. It is important not to lie to our children. They lose confidence in us if we do. You can frame the message for different ages but don’t make things up.

This is uncomfortable and scary for parents when kids ask about things that we as adults are horrified by or struggling ourselves to understand. Its ok to say to your child, “I want to talk to you about this and answer your questions and I need a few minutes to reflect so I can do a good job.” This is beautiful modeling for a child.

I believe that it is important for our children to see us as their parents having authentic emotional responses without any hiding or shielding of our children from seeing this. If you are sad and feel like crying, cry. Let your child see you cry, be sad and emerge from this sadness. No shame.

Don’t discuss 9/11 in combination of religion, race, nationality, culture or ethnicity with children. It is too complex for them to get their heads around concepts that we as adults might discuss. It also can tragically plants seeds of racism or xenophobia (a fear of people from other countries).

 

A simple way to explain 9/11 to a young child

9-11 was bad people hurting other people because they were bad people. In our community we don’t let bad people live with us. They go to jail. The people who hurt and killed people on 9-11 are in jail and will never hurt anyone again.

 

In honor of 9/11

If you get a chance, greet a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, the military or any service person that protects our country. Thank them for their hard work and for serving our country.

For more inspiration on how to talk to young kids about 9/11, read how to make a story book about 9/11.


Join the discussion

Have you explained 9/11 to your child? How did you do it? If you are a teacher, I’d love to hear how you incorporate remembering 9/11 with your classroom. Share your thoughts and experience in the comments below.

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