A pediatrician on how to talk to your kids about America's great tragedy
I collect snow globes of cities I love. When my stepson, Sage, was little he would love to watch us shake them and watch the snow swirl violently around settling gently on the miniature cities. Shortly after starting kindergarten, I found Sage sitting on our couch holding a snow globe and looking really sad.
When I asked him what was wrong he held up the globe he was holding and shook it and in the softest voice said, "Look Sand... It's 9/11." I sat down next to him, took the Globe with the pre9/11 New York City skyline and sat it on the table. He put his hand in mine and we sat there watching the snow swirl around the miniature city.
I realized he thought the snow was paper and that he must have seen footage of that day somewhere. We have to talk to our children about 9/11.This day makes us feel sad and angry. Our hearts ache. The images haunt us. The pain is still so fresh.
How do we possibly explain this day to our children, most of whom weren’t even born when the towers fell. We want to protect our children and shield them from evil. But, no matter how hard we try, it is there. It will ALWAYS be there. The planes crashing. The towers falling. Our illusion of safety demolished.
First we must listen. Children are taught about 9/11 in school as a part of national history. They may want to express their thoughts and feelings. Let them talk. Listen to what they have to say.As you talk to your children, be age appropriate in your discussions. You do not need to tell your children graphic details.
Be honest. Answer the questions they ask. Correct any misperceptions they have.Try to focus your discussion on stories of resilience and hope. Talk about how the entire world responded to our country with support and love. Talk about the heroes of 9/11. If you lost a family member on that day, tell stories about how wonderful that person was and their importance in your life.Children want to know they are safe. Remind them about all the changes that have been made to make sure we are safe.
For younger children; it is important their world feel secure.Monitor TV and the Internet. On the anniversary of 9/11, many news outlets will show memorial coverage. Try to limit the coverage they see. There are many graphic images on the Internet as well. If your child sees an image that is upsetting, let them talk to you about their feelings. Tell them it upsets you as well. Remind them it is Ok not to watch or look at things that make them feel sad. Again, reassure them that they are safe.Discuss with your children that today should be about reflection and remembering, but also a day to tell those we love how much they mean to us. Take a moment today to reach out to others and teach your children to do the same.Walk in peace today and give thanks to those who are protecting us.
We will never forget.