Remembering and Explaining 9/11

Ashley B | September 11, 2013 | 17 Comments

As today is the anniversary of September 11, 2001, it’s a good day to sit and reflect with our children about what this day means to us and to our history as Americans. If your children are middle school aged or younger, they have no recollection of that day, though they’ve probably heard about it each year. If they’re teenagers, they may remember some things about 9/11, depending on where they were, what they were doing, and whether your family was affected personally by the tragedy. Here are some ways that  you can help your children understand what 9/11 was all about, in age-appropriate ways.

  • Bring it up in a way to find what they already know. If your child is in school, chances are that it will be or has been discussed. Older children may have some knowledge of what happened, but the information they have may be incomplete. Talking first to find out what they know about September 11, 2001 is a good way to gauge how much information they’re ready to hear.
  • Allow yourself to be sad. If you lost someone on that day or if you’re feeling emotional about it, then don’t feel that you need to hide your feelings. The day was extremely sad, distressing, terrifying and anger-producing for nearly everyone; while you shouldn’t become hysterical or scare your child, it’s okay to let him see that you’re emotional about it.
  • Don’t volunteer too much information. They might know the general facts from school, but young elementary-schoolers probably don’t know, nor do they need to know, all of the graphic details about how some of the people died and what conditions were like inside the buildings. Answer questions, but beware of giving TMI.
  • Keep the television off for most of the day. News stations may show footage over and over again, which can be confusing to a younger child. He might be afraid that it’s happening currently, or think that it’s happening repeatedly. Even older children can find the images disturbing. If you want to show your older child once, then do so, but don’t allow it to play over and over again.
  • Focus on the positives. Talk about how things have changed, how airlines have beefed up security to keep everyone safer, and how other safety measures have been put into effect. People of all walks of life jumped at the chance to help others during those tumultuous days. Reassure your child that she’s as safe as possible from terrorism.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Talking about 9/11 isn’t a one-time thing; your child may think of more questions in the days, weeks and months that follow. Let him know that he can come to you if he has questions at any time.

September 11, 2001 was a tragic and unforgettable day in the course of American history. As adults who lived through the day, we’re able to carefully guide our children through processing this piece of our lives that they didn’t experience firsthand, but will one day share with their own children through our stories.

Comments (17)

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  1. Dandi D says:

    I still remember where I was when I heard the news. Can’t believe it’s already been 11 years ago.

  2. Carrie says:

    I like that you said to keep the TV off. I almost feel guilty for not watching it, but I feel as if you gave me permission not too. Great tips.

  3. Jennifer Mae Hiles says:

    To me, it doesn’t seem that the day should go on as normal. I feel like I should be home with my family and friends. I’m not sure why I feel that way. I was in my Sr year of college getting ready for class when I heard the news.

  4. Tammy says:

    I will never forget 9/11 and will make sure my child who was 2 at the time never forgets it. She actually remembers they cut into Sesame Street to show burning buildings. My heart aches everytime I think about it

  5. Very good points. My son who is 14 has been watching the specials on it on The History Channel and Nat Geo. He was asking me the other day where he was when it happened and if I saw it happen. I said yes, I saw the 2nd plane hit, and that he may have been in the room, but that he was too young then to remember it. He was not quite 4. We need to take our children’s personalities in to consideration when dealing with tragedy. I remember when he was about 7 he saw something about Hitler and was very upset for a few days. I hope teacher’s keep our children’s sensitivities in mind as they share these events in the future.

  6. Emmy says:

    Thank you so much for this VERY IMPORTANT post!!!

  7. Mike W Davis says:

    I will never, never forget this day–it was why I ended up in the service again for the second time. I appreciate you posting this–it is to important

  8. Tara O. says:

    My daughter is still too young to understand this tragedy but I will keep this in mind, thank you.

  9. sheila musselman askins says:

    i have struggled on how to explain the tragic day to my 8 yr old daughter. They have discussed it in school the last few years..but every year she has more and more questions..and sometimes i just feel at a loss as to what to say. I just want to tell her it was a horrific day and she never has to worry that it will never happen again, but the truth is…it could and i cant bring myself to tell her that. Thank you for this article it has given me point to think about and will use the next time the questions come from her..and i know they will.

  10. Debbie R says:

    Yesterday, 9/11 is a painful anniversary for all of us in the US. I know it was hard for me yesterday to watch TV; I can imagine how it would be for a child.
    My grand-kids hadn’t been born yet when it happened. I pray in their lifetime they won’t experience such hate.
    Older people have not had many situations like this so we are also learning as we go. The points above will really guide us. Thank you for posting them.

  11. AMBER P says:

    Such a sad day still thank you for the post

  12. Christopher Roundell says:

    11 years later, still fresh in my mind. Such a sad day, indeed.

  13. Rebecca says:

    It is hard to believe it was 11 years ago. My middle school age children have been told the story from our perspective, but I doubt they really understand what truly happened. I don’t want out family to ever forget however…

  14. bill elliott says:

    A day the whole world will always remember, a day that we should teach all how grateful we should take life each day

  15. Lua says:

    So well said! I found it hard to explain because my munchkin is so sensitive *as I think all kids are at age 5* so I kept it simple. As he gets older I definitely want him to understand though. 🙂

  16. christal c w says:

    I can still tell you what I was doing when I heard and saw the devastation on the tv. My family and I took a trip to New Jersey and on our way back we stopped in Pennsylvania to visit the site of the plane crash. It is still hard for my children to understand why this happened (13 and 10)as us adults find it hard as well. Thank you for your post on remembering…

  17. Michelle Moore says:

    Will never forget. This day is such a bitter sweet day for us. To think I have brought 3 kids in to the world since that day is crazy.

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