Nanny Confessions: It's Hard to Discuss 9/11 with Children
I confess I hate talking about 9/11. And I confess it's even harder speaking to kids about 9/11. But, I have been seeing public service announcements on television about the importance of speaking with kids about what happened on 9/11, rather than ignoring the topic.
Everyone who was old enough remembers what they were doing that day. But, according to 60-Minutes nearly one-quarter of the population was too young to remember 9/11. It is an important part of history and students will start learning about the attack once they enter Kindergarten until they graduate from high school and beyond, so parents and caregivers should be prepared to talk to kids about 9/11.
With difficult topics I typically recommend nannies ask the parents how they would like them to discuss the topic before speaking to the kids. I still encourage nannies ask the parents how they would like them to address the topic if the kids ask questions. It's difficult to think and talk about, but it is an important part of American history.
Below are some ideas by Richard Rende, PhD from his Red Hot Parenting column on Parents.com on how to discuss 9/11 with kids:
You Can Bring it Up: You can say, “You might be hearing about 9/11 on TV or at school (or on the computer). Let me know if you want to talk about it, okay?”
Be Prepared For Many Small Conversations Rather Than One Big One: Kids often formulate questions over time. It’s common for them to ask you something “out of the blue” that’s connected to something they saw or heard the prior day or two. And they will also be hearing and seeing lots of things over the next week. So it may be that you get a question or comment here or there — but spread over days or even weeks.
Let Kids Dictate How Much Information They Want: If a child wants to talk about 9/11, be an especially good listener and give them short answers so you can let them tell you what they really want to find out. Just follow their lead, one step at a time.
Be Factual But Supportive: It’s important to be factual with the child — you want to provide correct information for them so that you can be their trusted source. This can be difficult with an event that evokes a number of very strong emotions (sadness, grief, anger, etc.). However remind yourself that the goal is to be honest without overburdening. You can also say that, in the moment, they are very safe.
Pay Attention to Kids’ Emotions: Kids differ in their personalities. Some might not get emotional, whereas others might be very reactive (and seem scared or upset rather quickly). Keep in mind the child’s personality and remember that a critical objective is to offer emotional support. If the child gets upset, simply comfort them and reassure them as best you can.
Tightly Monitor Exposure to the Media: Part of your discussion may be to talk about how you will monitor exposure to media, particularly TV and Internet. Media coverage is pitched to adults (unless it is explicitly designed for younger ages), so also assume that the verbal and visual content will be emotional and potentially distressing to kids.
Keep Life Normal: With the exception of monitoring media use, it’s best to try to keep life as normal as possible. So even after you have a potentially emotional discussion with the child, move on to the next thing and send the message that the child’s life is not changing and safe.