How can you talk to your kids about the events that transpired on September 11th, 2001 without putting fear in their hearts? How do you continue to ask your kids to get on an airplane or go to the top of a big building without having them worry about the potential for danger? As a travel mom, I’ve found navigating 9/11 conversations more than a little difficult. And yet, at the same time- simpler than I could have imagined.
My daughter was 5 the first time I felt led to educate her about 9/11. I wrote about the experience on her personal blog, and rather than attempting to regurgitate the information I’ve decided to copy my post verbatim:
- Less is More: I firmly believe kids don’t need to know everything. At least not at first. Start with presenting a few key facts. Tailor the rest of your conversation based on their questions. Anyone with kids knows- they will ask questions! Answer as honestly as you can, but keep the answers super simple.
- Words, Not Pictures: We do not watch the news in front of our kids. Pictures from the media can become images burned into our heads forever. And that’s not necessary. Likewise, present 9/11 verbally. Eventually you may choose to expose them to the images from that day- but do so with caution and care. Pictures make things A LOT more real.
- Reassurance: Guess how many times the Bible says “do not be afraid?” Three hundred and sixty-five. That’s not a coincidence! God doesn’t want us to live our lives in fear. Above all else, reassure your children that they don’t need to be fearful of the bad guys or attacks. As an adult, do I realize it’s always a possibility that something like 9/11 could happen again? Sure. But I choose not to be paralyzed with the what-if scenario. Kids aren’t as good at making that decision so make it for them- reassure them that they do not need to be afraid when traveling!
- Hero Focused: September 11th was a tragic day; however, there are remarkable stories about the good guys that emerged. The brave firefighters and first responders that ran into a burning building to save others. The people on Flight 93 that forced their plane down in an empty field to save the lives of countless more. Tell your kids those stories. Let them focus on ordinary people doing remarkable things in the face of evil. I pray my kids will NEVER find myself in those circumstances, but if they do- I want them to remember the stories of the heros- and to be those kind of people.
- Changes: A great way to conclude the conversation is to educate your children about the changes our country made after 9/11. My kids are familiar with airport procedures- explaining to them why we have to go through such strict security (removing our shoes, throwing away water bottles, etc.) is a great way to remind them that those inconvienet lines are actually there to keep us safe. Be a champion for the country, TSA security and all the safety measures in place at airports, sporting events, amusement parks, etc. Let your your kids feel protected and safe!
Navigating through conversations about 9/11 will never be easy. But they can produce some sweet family dialog. It’s a great opportunity to be transparent with your children about a difficult topic, while still keeping the conversation appropriate for young hearts. Don’t stress if the conversation turns to Tinkerbell! As I mentioned, children all process information differently- in their own time and way!
This answer will be different for everyone, but I’m curious- what age do you think is appropriate to begin talking to your kids about 9/11?