Talking to kids about 9/11 can definitely be a little challenging at times. How much do you share? What do you say?
Do you remember where you were on 9/11? Every year when 9/11 comes around, I always find myself reliving the moments and memories of that day.
I still remember exactly where I was when I heard what happened, and watching the news intently for the majority of the day as the events continued to unfold.
Now we (as a country) remember this day every year by posting our pictures and quotes like “Never Forget” on social media. It always warms my heart to see people across the country take a day to remember a time that impacted so many lives.
But now the question is…should you talk to your kids about 9/11? Read on to get our two cents and experiences in talking to our kids about 9/11.
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Yes, Talk with Your Kids About 9/11!
We believe you should be talking to your children about 9/11! Now that we have older children, we have realized the importance of talking about this day and how it impacted us as a country.
Every year our kids have more and more questions about 9/11. Why did it happen? Why would someone do that? How many people died? What is terrorism?
While it might be easy to try to shy away from these conversations (as it potentially may create some difficult topics), I have found it’s best to simply let the kids take the lead in how much they want to know.
This past year we ended up spending most of the morning watching some of the live news reports (their idea!) from 9/11 (with discretion of course), interviews of some of the survivors, and testimonies of families that were impacted that lost loved ones.
There are plenty of ways to begin these discussions with your children. Here are a few other ideas as well as some things to consider when you do begin that conversation!
Books to Spur Conversations with Kids About 9/11
From history books to fictional books, there are several books out there about there about September 11th. Fictional books are a great way for kids to relate to the main character and imagine what it might have been like during that event and the time thereafter.
One of our favorite series, the “I Survived” series, actually has a book about surviving the attacks of September 11th which is a great place for older kids to start!
3 Things to Consider When Talking with Kids About 9/11:
There are many things to think about as you engage in conversations about the events on 9/11. Here are three things to think about as you begin talking about 9/11 with your kids.
1. Consider Your Family Dynamics and Unique Situations
Each family will be different in how much is appropriate to discuss. Some kids with anxiety or trauma-related backgrounds may be more sensitive to this topic.
You know yourself and your kids the best, so use your discretion in how much you share. Here is a great article from 911Memorial.org about talking to children about terrorism that can give you even more guidelines and ideas for determining how much to discuss.
2. Talk About Your Memories of 9/11 and How You Felt That Day
Every year we try to share our experiences with the kids and how we remember being really confused about what happened. For us, we were in college and all of the classes were canceled for the day. We all sat and watched the news unfold. Praying for the rescuers, possible survivors and everyone directly involved.
It took us quite a while as a country to really grasp the severity of the situation. It was an eerie feeling not knowing what was going on. Yet as the new reports kept coming in, another plane hit…a plane hit the pentagon…another plane crashed in Pennsylvania…we all started to realize what was happening.
Share your experience. Where you were. How you felt. What you remember about that day. It’s important for our kids to hear how we were impacted by the events of 9/11.
3. Answer Their Questions and Let them Lead the Way
The kids had lots of questions this year. The thing that really left a lasting impression was an interview with a couple of high school age girls that shared their story of losing their dad that day.
One was three at the time and the other had not yet been born. While they really don’t have many memories of their dad (obviously as one wasn’t born yet…), they were clearly greatly affected by this day.
While talking about 9/11 definitely could cause fear and insecurities in some children (always be mindful of your child’s situation…), our conversation this year actually shifted to their hearts being evoked by compassion and gratitude.
They couldn’t imagine the families that lost loved ones that day, especially children that lost moms and dads. They felt compassion for the firefighter that made it out alive (while many firefighters did not) and actually got to be there for his three young children.
We all the sudden found ourselves in a conversation about having gratitude and being grateful for every person in our lives.
If you allow your kids to lead the way, you just never know what direction the conversation may go. Allow them to ask questions and answer them to the best of your ability.
And sometimes “I don’t know” is okay, too! We still don’t have a lot of answers about what happened that day. But being open and willing to discuss it with them will hopefully build bridges to more in depth conversations with your child in the future.
Talking about 9/11 can be a difficult conversation, but the reality is…if we don’t talk about it, the generations to come won’t know about it.
I remember the first day the kids came home from school talking about “9-1-1”(and no, they were NOT talking about calling the emergency phone line). Quickly I realized that they had read about it at school and that’s how they interpreted it. I corrected them that it was “9/11” and started a conversation right then and there about what happened on 9/11.
9/11 is now a big part of our history as a country. And our children (and one day grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) need to hear our stories and how it impacted us as a nation. Every year I watch my social media feed all day long on 9/11 with people posting “We Will Never Forget” or “Never Forget.”
And while I am so grateful to live in a generation that takes time to remember 9/11, I also want to make sure we are doing our part in talking to our children about it as well. If we don’t want our country to forget, then we need to be talking about it (and that includes our children – even if it means difficult conversations.)
You just never know what may spark something in your child through a conversation about 9/11. And it may just be something like that spark that evokes our children to contribute positively to our country and the world around us.
So what are your thoughts? Have you talked to your kids about 9/11? What were their responses? Were they positive or negative? Be sure to comment below. We would love to hear your thoughts!
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