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[Mom Team] How to Talk to the Kids About 9/11

Twin Beams Won’t Shine, Names Won’t Be Read Live on 9/11 This Year
Getty Images

Many of us have kids who weren’t around in 2001 when 9/11 happened, so their experience of it has come through limited teachings at school and Youtube videos.  Some ways are better than others to open up in-person conversations.

If you were alive in 2001, you remember where you were and what you were doing the morning of September 11th when all hell started to break loose.  I remember feeling disbelief at first, questioning how in the world the Twin Towers could have holes in the middle of them with smoke coming out like a scene straight out of a horror movie. Then the plane went down near the Pentagon and I started to freak the heck out, wondering what would happen next.  Then the towers collapsed.  And the loss.  And anthrax. If it wasn’t the worst time in history, I would think it might at least be in the conversation.

Jen Austin - Townsquare Media
Jen Austin – Townsquare Media

I asked my 11-year old what she thinks about when someone says 9/11, and off the top of her head she blurted out these things:

Planes
Twin Towers
Calling the Police
Terrorists
Death

I still think of those things too.  And I think about the babies who were born without dads because they died in the attacks, and I think about the single moms who raised those kids.  They’re 19 now.

There’s an art to sharing the experience of 9/11 with our kids without giving them one more thing to worry about, and just like we do with candid conversations about bullies and COVID, it’s a matter of choosing the right words during talks about terrorist attacks.

The experts at Parents.com offered these helpful tips:

Figure out what they already know.  They’ve gathered the gist from school and Youtube, and that will be the cake for your added chocolate sprinkles.  Even if it doesn’t taste good.

Use age-appropriate language.  You know your kids and you’re already an expert at this.

Answer questions truthfully.  9/11 was a graphic event and the horror of it may be part of the discussion.  We all have to read the room to decide what details to include.

Understand their emotions.  There’s no right or wrong way for them to process things, and if I’m honest, I would have to say my girls are not emotional at all about 9/11.  Because they didn’t live it they have no emotional connection to it, and it’s not on their radar.  Talks about it are short.

Watch age-appropriate documentaries.  My three don’t have the attention span for this, but if you can work in a history lesson during family movie night, more power to you.

Focus on hope.  For sure.  9/11 was awful, but there was unity afterward, and that can carry us a long way.  Whether it’s a bully, COVID, or 9/11, there are ways through it and things will be okay.

There are more helpful tips at 911memorial.org.

The anniversary of 9/11 is always a good opportunity to thank a first responder for being amazing on a daily basis, there’s an event coming up in Boise to do that if you want to check it out.  Next Saturday, September 18th, there’s a rally planned to support law enforcement, and that will be on the Idaho Capitol steps at 10 am.  Anyone can go.

This, from 2020:

9/11 in Photos: May We Never Forget

Click here to view photo gallery Click here to view photo gallery

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