This year marks the 11th anniversary of 9/11. The day itself is not in the memory bank of young children, but each year early September brings reminders as the country remembers the men and women who lost their lives at the Pentagon, at the World Trade Center and in a field in Pennsylvania.
Many parents, myself included, struggle with knowing how to talk about 9/11 with our children. We want them to know, to understand, to be aware of what 9/11 represents to Americans. But at the same time we don't want to scare them, to instill a sense of fear of people, planes, airports or the unknown. But it never fails, a Sept. 11 doesn't pass that you don't see those horrific images on the tv screen. Kids have questions.
Carroll County resident Michelle Morrison is a licensed counselor who works with children in her practice Michelle Morrison & Associates based in Woodstock. She shared advice with Patch for talking to children about 9/11.
"Children are learning about 9/11 in classrooms across the country," Morrison said. "It is important to answer your child's questions in response to what they are learning. Let your child direct the conversation and help guide you in your responses."
Morrison offers the following tips to help parents.
- Start by asking children what they know about 9/11. If your child has a lot of questions then they have a need to discuss the topic.
- Once the questions have stopped, they have discussed the topic to the depth they need. Don't answer questions that are not being asked.
- Use language that is appropriate for your child's age and stage of development. Elementary-aged children are too young to hear about the frightening details about that day.
- If your child is upset by something they have heard, let them express their concerns so they can get a reality check from you. Reassure children that we are safe. Inform your child that we are safer as a nation. Our safety has improved since the day of the attacks.
- Most importantly, talk to your child about the resiliency of our nation. Share stories about the courage of the heroes who came to the aide of others, along with stories of compassion about people coming together and supporting one another. Show through explanation how our nation was strengthened by this tragedy. By doing so you role model for your child how to be resilient in the face of tragedy, a lesson all children need to learn to help them cope with loss.
Morrison said that each child is different and adults discussing 9/11 with a child will need to gauge a child's reaction to the information.
"No two children will respond the same way," she said.
It is important, Morrision said, to let the child lead the conversation. Listen to what the child is saying and determine what they need by gauging their emotional reactions.
"Do not be surprised nor concerned if they do not have an emotional reaction to what they are learning," Morrison said. "Many kids will respond matter of factly to the information. Avoid imposing your feelings about the events onto your child. If you are upset, they will feel as though they too have to be upset."
"A child's response should be their own and remain as unique as their thumb print."
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