As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches children are learning about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and of the passengers that tried to take control of a plane that crashed into a field to prevent it from reaching its intended target in Washington D.C..
War and terrorism are difficult subjects to talk to children about because they are not easy even for the parents or teachers to comprehend or accept. However, adults cannot completely avoid these topics with children and teens because they are exposed to them, whether we like it or not.
One of the most important things is to make sure that children know that they can talk to you, ask questions, and open up about their fears and other emotions. Children and teens need caring adults they can feel is concerned about them and that they can trust and be open with.
Here are some tips on how to talk to children and teens about 9/11. Click here to read the entire article.
1. Listen to children and express emotions together:
- You can share your own emotions and concerns, but don't overwhelm the child.
- If you don't know what else to say, give a hug and say, ”I know this is really hard for you and for me, but I still love you“.
- Before answering, it is a good idea to ask children what they already know about the topic in question.
- Be honest with your answers, but choose your words and explanations according to the child's understanding, and don't overload the child with too much information.
- Try to give answers that give hope and faith and are reassuring, but again, don't lie or give false hope or unrealistic promises.
- Be ready to answer the same question repeatedly. As has been found in several studies, even if parents do talk to children about difficult topics, children might later not remember it. So you need to have these discussions often. For a child, repeating a question might also be a form of getting reassurance.
- You don't have to have all the answers. Its okay to say, "I don't know," but I will let you know as soon as I understand it better. The most important thing is that your children can feel you care about them.
- Don't let elementary school children watch the news or read newspapers without your presence. It is even better if you can videotape the news broadcast beforehand, let the parents check it out, censor the parts they feel are inappropriate, and then watch it together with the children. Young children shouldn't really watch the news because it has so much violence.
- You can also choose local news stations, which might contain less coverage of terrorism and war, and less news about murders and violent crimes. Videotape the news you want to watch yourself and watch them later, or just watch night news broadcasts.
- Even teenagers can be shaken up and get worried by current news coverage and world events, so it is not safe to let them watch news without supervision either. Teens have enough to go through without overtly worrying about world circumstances.
- Childhood should be a happy time. Encourage them to play ball, climb trees, or ride their bike, instead of constantly watching news or reading newspapers.
- Keep regular structure, routines, schedules, and familiar activities, which help children feel secure. Instead of watching TV, spend time with children in other ways and design some fun family activities.
- Do something positive. Instead of concentrating on the people who died or all the violence, try to find something related that can be looked upon as a positive thing. For example, talk about the brave firefighters, policemen, and nurses who helped others during the 9/11 aftermath. You can study together what the American Red Cross or other charities did to help in the rescue work.
- If you know a family where one member is deployed, help the family in some way where your charges can get involved. For example, offer to do a spring cleaning or take over some food.