For kids in school, 9/11 is part of the history books, and depending on your child’s age, they may learn about the events in class. Many parents wonder if they should talk to their kids about the events of 9/11, especially if they are younger. Dr. Laura Gerak, a psychologist at Akron Children’s, explains how you might handle the conversation.
Regardless of your child’s age, Dr. Gerak notes that it’s important to discuss and acknowledge history, whether good or bad.
“Good times and bad, these are the stories of our world, nation, humanity and with regards to 9/11, something that was a live event many folks still remember vividly,” said Dr. Gerak.
While many of us remember the upsetting images of the day, Dr. Gerak said it’s also important to point out the heroism of others.
“9/11 was an ominous event, but that doesn’t mean you ignore, deny and dismiss,” she said. “It’s better children hear about it from you or family, to understand what happened. You also have the opportunity to highlight the resilience, strength and literally rising from the ashes that happened because of that day.”
Many kids see how divided we are today. As a parent or guardian, you can show how the events of that day help us learn about things we didn’t consider before and how it brought people together, with many communities supporting each other. You can also look at photos of the memorials and discuss the ‘Never Forget’ motto that surrounds the day.
“If you don’t tell them, they will fill in the blanks, or others will, and it may or may not be accurate,” she said. “Unfortunately, dealing with hard things is part of our kids’ reality now and helping them learn how to navigate this hard stuff is part of parenting.”
When it comes to starting the conversation about 9/11, Dr. Gerak recommends first finding out what they know about the day.
“Once you understand what they know, share information in short bites, kids often digest in chunks/bites and need time to process and digest before the next piece,” she explained. “Kids will typically ask follow up questions as they are ready to take it in. You don’t want to overload them.”
If your child is older, you may be able share your own memories or feelings about the day.
For younger kids in preschool, Dr. Gerak suggests it might be too early to start the discussion of 9/11 unless it’s been part of their lives or you know they’re learning about it in school.
Having conversations with kids due to unsettling stories they may see on the news has become more common. Learn how to have that conversation with a child.