How to Talk About and Commemorate September 11 with Young Children

9-11 FlagsThis year marks the 12 year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. For many Long Islanders, when looking back and remembering that day, it can seem like only yesterday. Other times it feels like a lifetime ago.

There’s been much debate over the years as to how to commemorate the day. Some people feel that September 11 should be designated a National Holiday. Currently it is considered a National Day of Service, and people are encourage to do a good deed or charitable service in honor of all those who lost their lives.

Parents in particular are faced with difficult choices each year. Thankfully all of the children born after that horrific day are so far untouched by violence on the scale we all witnessed 12 years ago. We are left to wonder how we teach our children about that day and how much to say about it. Most Long Island school districts have some sort of remembrance to signify the day and children are taught in general terms why the day is so important. Long Island Mamas offers some tips on how to talk about and commemorate September 11 with young children.

I spoke with Elizabeth Munro, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and one of the creators of the Beautiful Me Project, a self-esteem program for females developed by the Hance Family Foundation. “I think it’s important to know your child before a discussion about 9/11,” said Ms. Munro. “Find out what information they have, what information they are looking for, and why.”

Don’t be shy about speaking to your child’s teacher, principal, or school social worker about how the school handles explaining the day to children.

Ms. Munro advised, “I say, keep it simple, focus on it being a rare occurrence (over 10 years ago too). Be honest; be available for questions and feelings.”

For younger children especially it is important to remain soothing and positive. Ms. Munro suggested, “Spend time in the discussion to acknowledge the good people and the helpers from that day. If you’re telling a story about something scary, include solutions. For example, the subways were broken so everyone walked together over the bridge. Point out how safety has improved.”

Include your children in events that you attend to commemorate the day, especially if you choose to commemorate the day with an act of service or charity in which your young ones can participate. “I think it’s important to consider the balance between protecting our children from information that provokes anxiety and including them in the reality of situations,” said Ms. Munro.

What better way to soothe a child’s anxiety than by allowing them to see the good in people and the happiness one can bring by helping out a neighbor or donating to the less fortunate. September 11 is a somber day, no question. All parents want to shield their children from events as horrific as what took place that day 12 years ago. By talking about it and putting it into a healthy perspective, remaining soothing and supportive, and giving of ourselves in memory of those we lost that day, parents can ensure that their children learn about the events in an age-appropriate manner.

By Allison Profeta

Photo credit: By The U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

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