Every generation has a touchstone to a major historic event. From Pearl Harbor to the assassination of JFK, if you lived through one or both of those events, you remember where you were when these events happened. Now, in a world wrapped in a pandemic and facing new trauma, we remember 9/11.
Coping with your own feelings about what we as Americans endured on September 11, 2001, and what we are grappling with now and how 9/11 changed your world. To help children understand the tragic events of September 11th – and get the conversation started – we have compiled a few helpful tips as you talk to children:
- Prepare yourself for the talk. You will most likely listen more than talk. Find the right mindset and time to talk with children. Be ready for any emotions that may surface during this conversation and offer support.
- Make sure the conversation is age-appropriate. Use words that your child understands rather than introducing advanced terms. Explain what happened and how the event affects our lives today. Reassure children that they are safe.
- Pursue Facts. Discussions like this are a perfect opportunity for you to model rational behavior and thinking on social issues. Explain the difference between facts and opinions, as well as what it means to stereotype someone. If older children and teens have more questions, help children pursue and interpret the factual findings of September 11th.
- Monitor Children’s Reactions. Recognize children’s fears but keep the conversation constructive. Watch for non-verbal cues that the child isn’t ready to hear certain facts or ideas (i.e. wincing, frowning, etc.). These can be clues to help you transition between topics.
- Offer Hope. Let younger children know that although horrible things happened on September 11, 2001, we’re all still here. Older children should know how our government has taken steps to protect us from terrorism, and comfort children with true stories of the heroic first responders and those who stepped up to help.
Tragedies like 9/11 and the current health crisis are ones we will carry with us always. Please help children better understand these events today so that they can have a greater understanding of the historical significance of September 11, 2001. #NeverForget