Friday, September 9, 2011

How to Explain 9-11 to Your Children

With the 10 year anniversary of the tragedy of 9-11 fast approaching, my son has been very curious about the attacks.  Here are a few questions he has come up with. "Where were the planes coming from? Where were they going? Were there passengers on them? How many people died? Were any babies killed?  Why did they do that?  Who are terrorists?  Will it happen again?"
As my husband and I try to explain the horror that unfolded that day, I realized that many other parents are dealing with the same situation.  I hope what we learned will help you!

Listen: Listen to your child and express emotions together.  Don't suppress feelings of sadness or anger.  Let your child tell you exactly how he feels.  Don't belittle your child for crying.  Sometimes it may be easier for him to draw or color to release his emotions.
Respect your child's feelings and opinions, even if they don't match your own.  You can share your own feelings just as long as you don't overwhelm your child.  If you act like it's no big deal, your child will likely mimic your behavior.  In our household, my husband loves thunderstorms.  My son loves them too.  When I was little, my mom hated thunderstorms.  So did I, I used to hide under my bed with my siblings.
Sometimes all you can do is hold your child.  Hugs seem to help more than words sometimes.

Be honest:  When answering questions, be honest and choose words that are within your child's understanding.  Be sure not to overload them with too much information.  If you don't know the answer, it's OK to admit that.  Tell him that you will try to find out for him.  The most important thing is making your child know you love them and are taking them seriously.
Remind your children that not all people are good and not all people are bad.  We can't control everyone else, only ourselves.

Tell the facts: Answer simply and directly.  Less is more.  Don't be too graphic.  If they don't ask about how people died, don't go into the details.
My son wanted to know who the men were that took over the planes and why they did it.  I told him they were followers of Osama Bin Laden, leader of terrorist organization. The group hated America's power and influence. Bin Laden promised to hurt America. The nineteen men sacrificed their lives to hurt America.

Monitor TV and Internet:  A lot of television and news shows will air footage of the entire event.  Some of the footage is very graphic and not suitable for children. 
Young children cannot separate the truth from sensational headlines; if they're bombarded with hours of television coverage, it can generate tremendous anxiety.
Make sure you are actively involved in the quality and quantity of the information that are taking in. 

Relate it to something they know about:  A friend of mine suggested I explain it in a way he can understand.  "There are bullies who want to hurt others, because they don't like what the others have. Unfortunately, on the international "playground", bullies kill people."  With the big anti-bully campaigns, that is a great analogy.  The kid type bullies pick on the weak and different.  The international terrorist bullies, pick on a country that is different and needs to be weakened with fear.  Both types of bullies instill fear in their victims.

Do something positive. Instead of concentrating on the people who died or all the violence, try to find something related that can be looked upon as a positive thing. For example, talk about the brave firefighters and policemen and nurses who helped others during the 9-11 aftermath. You can study together what the American Red Cross or other charities did to help in the rescue work. Encourage your children to do good things to others. 
Emphasize that we are celebrating the heroes of 9-11 also.  We can be heroes everyday by being compassionate and kind to those who are different than us.

For more information, visit:
How do you explain 9-11 to your children?


Harleena Singh said...

Great post Pam!

Yes indeed, kids can ask questions that sometimes we have a tough time answering! But I like your approach of replying to them by being honest to them about things and explaining the facts, as that is the best way out- just like you mentioned!

Thanks for sharing :)

Suerae Stein said...

Great post, Pam. I agree that honest and simple is best and putting it in terms they can understand like bullying is brilliant. And focusing on the heroes, again, terrific. My kids grew up with this tragedy. They were 3 and 6 and have known about it most of their lives, which seems so strange to me. And they talk about it with candor. I believe that they don't really understand the reality of it because they were so little when it happened and because they are kids and it didn't directly impact their immediate world as far as they can tell. But I know differently. We are all impacted by it. Thanks for the great suggestions. I'm sure many will find them very helpful!

Pam said...

Thanks Harleena. Can't go wrong with honesty!
Have a great night.

BarbaraB said...

These are great insights, Pam.

Continuing the discussion:
One of my colleagues at Guardian Angel Publishing wrote a picture book about children whose birthdays are on Sept.11. Here is part of the letter she wrote to the group.

From Nicole Weaver:

"My new book, My Birthday is September Eleven is # 30 on Amazon bestselling short stories for children. Thanks for letting me share this ray of sunshine our heavenly father has bestowed upon me. Have a splendid week-end."

Roy A. said...

Got it perfectly correct, Pam...
One needs to provide the information as needed by your child. Only the mom and dad know exactly where their kid is, to provide enough, with analogies they will understand.
And, the best ending, is how to turn around those negative feelings. Picking activities you ALL can do together, to make the world a better place, to make it harder for the crazies, the demented, and the hateful to win the tabloid wars.

Tania B said...

Hi, I am a new follower from the Mom Blog Society Blog Hop. Please feel free to follow me back at Horseshoes and please drop by anytime!


Lacey N. said...

This is some good information. My kids are too young to realize what happened on 9/11 (to them it's just my birthday), but I am sure when they are older they will ask questions. In fact, my four-year-old might ask questions about it if we watch the specials with her. I'll keep the information you've shared in mind when I am answering their questions.


Jayne @ Green Country Girl said...

Hello, Pamela. I found you from the Stop and Stumble Hop and gave your post a "thumbs up."

I'll have to ask my son if my granddaughter has had any school activities regarding 09.11. She's 6, so I'm honestly not sure how much she'd really need to know at this point.

Ann Mullen said...

I didn't realize how out of the mommy loop I was until I read this. My babies are all grown and I have not little ones I need to explain this to. I do remember the many discussions we had about sex and I hear you saying the same kinds of things. Be aware of the child's questions, language, understanding and remember that some questions kids worry about they never express. Gentle questioning is sometimes needful.

Pam said...

Thank you everyone for visiting and commenting!
Barb, Thanks for sharing Nicole's book.
Roy, Thank you for your input. Your comments have been most helpful
Lacey, Happy Birthday! Good luck with the explanations.
Jayne, Thanks for stumbling my post!

Happy Blogging everyone!

DHidey said...

Great post! The reality is that parents will have to be sharing this information for years to come. I don't know when the memories will fade. i know my mom talked about the bombing of pearl harbor in much the same way we are talking about 9/11. it will never be forgotten, but having good ways to share with kids is so needed

Pam said...

Ann, thanks for visiting. I agree, sometimes gentle questioning is the only way to find out what they know and need to know.
DHidey, I commented on and followed your blog. Thanks for visiting!

Vicky said...

These are great tips and advice. My kids are not of the age yet, but I am sure one day soon they will be asking about that day. Thanks for sharing.

I am visiting from the Stop and Stumble Hop. I have stumbled this post. If you have a chance please stumble mine too.

Pam said...

Vicky, thanks for visiting and stumbling my post. I will sure return the favor.
Never Forget 9-11!

Dvr Dame said...

Thanks for the advice. My sons are still too young to be asking about 9/11 but I'll keep this post in mind.

Veronica Lee said...

Great advice!

Hi! Stopping by from MBC.
Have a nice day!

Just Another Mom of Twins said...

These are great pointers that I will have to save for when my kids are old enough to understand and ask questions!


Brae Craig said...

I like this post. My children are fairly young- 6,5 and 3 (and a baby) and I didn't feel the need to bring it up this year. I know that they'll probably learn about it in history classes at school and as they get older they'll notice things. but I didn't feel it was "time" to talk to them about it.

However, yesterday, we drove home from my mom's house where we had had a big family dinner and games, and my son asked why everyone had flags out. So, I broke down and told them, in minor detail, how things happened. They lost interest before I got too far into it.

Denise said...

So true. My daughters are 14 and 15, we went through the same things. It was funny how suddenly they were so aware and remembered what they thought about it 10 years ago, even! Amazing. Honesty was the way to go, without overdoing, and just keeping it all age appropriate as time goes on.

Following from Monday Mingle Hop

Great Beauty Buys said...

My daughter was only 5 when it happened. She finally saw the video this year in her history class. She is now 15. She was devastated. It hit her very hard. We spoke about it for days. This has been a hard 9/11 anniversary for me - don't know why but I'm very emotional about it as is my daughter. Thanks for writing such an insightful post. We need to talk about it. And will do so for years to come.


Pam said...

Thanks everyone for commenting on my blog. My son didn't seem to upset by it this year. I limited the TV coverage this time and we talked about how everyone is different and not everyone is good.
I will follow everyone back.
Never forget 9-11

Diplo_Daddy said...

Those are all wonderful ideas, Pam. Luckily for us, we won’t have to do any explaining at the moment because; our son is far too young to truly appreciate the meaning of 9-11. Maybe in a few years, we’ll sit down with him and explain the significance of that day, and why it’s so important that we not forget the lives lost on that horrible day. said...

blog hoppin'!

We stress being a good community member all year around. We lead by example - I substitute teach, my husband is a mail carrier, we put our neighbors, friends, and family before ourselves. We stress putting our own plans on hold if someone is in need and our three children are learning the same.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...