How to Talk to your Kids about 9/11

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of one of the most horrific days in our US history. For those of who were adults in 2001, we remember in vivid detail exactly where we were and how the events of that day transpired. But for most of our children and teenagers they only know what we are teaching them and what they see on the news. It’s tough to talk about to your kids about 9/11, but if you’re trying to decide how to start this conversation, here are some tips.

How to Talk to your Kids about 9/11

My kids have grown up in a world where 9/11 is an event in history, not something they actually experienced. They were not even alive on that day in 2001. So how do we talk to them and help them understand those events?

Make it age-appropriate.

The number one thing to remember when talking to children about bad events in history is to keep it age-appropriate. When we were talking to our kids as preschoolers and early kindergartners, it was important for me as a parent to not tell them how bad that day was. It wasn’t necessary to scare my young children with events in history. As they grew up through elementary school they were better able to understand the pride of how we rebuilt and able to hear some of the heroic stories. The events of 9/11 are heavy and can be overwhelming to young children. As they are getting older, more of the details of 911 are understood. I remember the day when my daughter first understood and appreciated how bad that day actually was. It is an important thing to come to understand, but we must remember to keep the information appropriate for the kids ages.

Visit the memorials.

We had the opportunity to visit the Pentagon Memorial this summer, the Flight 93 Memorial last summer, and my daughter and I took a trip to New York City to Ground Zero. Walking onto those Memorials is a great way to help connect the past to the present generation. There is a feeling of somber reflection as well as gratitude for the people who lost their lives. It may not be age appropriate to have your children visit the full museums and listen to all the phone recordings or see all the exhibits, but all ages can walk across the grounds and take time to remember. Visiting these 9/11 Memorials is a good place to start the conversation about the events of the day.

Find the heroes.

It has been said that in every dark situation there are always heroes. When we have talked to our children about the events of 9/11, we talk about the bravery of the first responders and the selfless acts of so many New Yorkers who helped in the evacuations and rescues. We talk about the strangers who became heroes on Flight 93 and how they saved countless other lives because of their actions. Rather than focus on the horrific events of that day, we choose to turn our kid’s attention to the silver lining that is found in every event throughout history.

This is also a good way to talk about civic responsibilities and how we can make a difference in the world around us each and every day.

The events of September 11, 2001 must never be forgotten and must be shared with the next generation. As long as we continue to make sure the next generation understands and appreciates the sacrifices and heroism of so many people on that day we will continue to grow. As we mark another anniversary of 911, how do you plan to talk to your children?

Excerpts of this article first appeared in the Danville Advocate-Messenger.

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