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?"
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. Young children cannot separate the truth from sensational headlines; if they're bombarded with hours of television coverage, it can generate tremendous anxiety.
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.
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.How do you explain 9-11 to your children?