Tag Archives: children and 9/11

Talking to kids about 9/11

Artwork from an Arizona Capitol exhibit by Young Arts of Arizona

Dispensing parenting pearls is easier than following them — hence my proficiency now in urging others to talk sensibly and sensitively with their children about 9/11 a decade after my own children experienced far too much television footage filled with fire, tears and trauma.

They’re old enough now that I can indulge my instinct to spend much of the weekend following live coverage of 9/11 memorial events — in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania — on television, radio and internet. And I can reflect on ways I might have done a better job talking with them about 9/11 in its immediate aftermath.

Children born in 2001 are now elementary school students old enough to feel genuine curiosity about events of that day, but young enough to need adult support as they make their way through atttempting to grasp and come to terms with them.

The national 9/11 Memorial in New York City, which provides information on the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath at www.911memorial.org, offers several
“broad guidelines” helpful to parents of children from preschoolers to teens:

  • Listen. Actively listen to their thoughts, attend to their body language, validate their emotions, and encourage respectful conversation and discussions.
  • Don’t avoid difficult conversations. Let the child’s interests and thoughts guide the conversation. Use age-appropriate language and be aware of your tone, reassuring children about their own safety and allowing them to express concerns about 9/11 and its aftermath in more depth.
  • Answer questions about the attacks with facts. Be prepared for your child to ask questions about death when dicussing 9/11, and to answer these questions in a way that is honest and developmentally-appropriate.
  • Acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. If you can’t answer your child’s question, be honest. Use the opportunity to model yourself as a learner, and to explore the questions together.
  • Be specific. The story of 9/11 is actually thousands of individual stories. Highlight those specific stories to help humanize the events, and avoid stereotypes and simplifications.
  • Emotions vary. Children’s responses vary widely depending on their age, personality, actual or perceived ethnic or religious background, connection to the attacks, and exposure to other past traumatic experiences.
  • Monitor the TV and internet. Programs may include footage from 9/11 itself, and include scenes that are not appropriate for children to view at all or without supervision.
  • Know yourself. Recognizing your feelings beforehand and then sharing them honestly with your children offers them a model in their own difficult conversations and will help engender a safe, trusting environment.
  • Emphasize hope. Help your children recognize how their own compassion can prevent future acts of intolerance and violence by reminding them to express their ideas respectfully and to treat people who are different from themselves with kindness.

The 9/11 Memorial website offers several resources for parents and teachers — including lesson plans and 9/11 FAQs. Also sections on “Tribute Art & 9/11” and “The Spirit of Volunteerism.” Plus links to other “suggested resources.”

Artwork exhibited by Young Arts Arizona at the Arizona State Capitol

Additional tips are available online from Teaching Tolerance at www.tolerance.org and 9-11 Heroes at www.9-11heroes.us.

Whatever the topic, children need to know that it’s okay to have questions, to express their thoughts and feelings. They need to know their parents will listen with an open mind, not passing judgement or pushing their own agenda.

We can’t guarantee that our children will never come to harm, but we can offer them spaces and places that feel physically, emotionally and intellectually safe.

— Lynn

Note: Artwork by children at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center recently exhibited at the Arizona State Capitol by Young Arts Arizona (www.youngartsaz.org). Photos by Lynn Trimble.

Coming up: Broadway remembers 9/11, Arizona’s 9/11 memorial

Keeping pace

My youngest daughter, Lizabeth, called Saturday night to tell me about her dorm in New York City. She’s attending Pace University, the closest university to Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan. Her room overlooks a lovely patch of green where she hopes to spot people walking their puppies.

But also Ground Zero, where construction continues on the new World Trade Center. Lizabeth has long lamented much of the country’s singular focus on death and destruction in the aftermath of 9/11. 

She’s focused on the future, eager to see hope and healing rise from the earth so shattered by hatred and loss. She’ll be witness to rebuilding of the World Trade Center each time she looks out her window and strolls the streets of Lower Manhattan.

A courtyard at the Pace NYC campus houses several works of sculpture, including this piece near a 9/11 memorial called the Book of Remembrance (at left)

While most of the events taking place in NYC this week are centered on the tragic losses wrought by 9/11, which we must all take care to remember collectively and alone, many reflect that yearning I see in Lizabeth to move from what has been to what can be. From the tragedy of destruction to the triumph of diversity.

The “91111 Moving Forward Project” invited children eight to 14 to take and upload photographs that “show New York as a city of diversity and forward movement, even during tragedy.” Accepted works are being displayed online and at various NYC locations through Sept 30. (www.notestrokes.com)

“The underlying purpose of the project is to impart things that are positive to young people that have been growing up in New York City since 9/11,” reflects project founder Thomas Riedl. “Young people that have been exposed to many negatives since then.”

The Pace University community will be participating in 9/11-related events in coming days, including several that are open to the public — photography exhibits, symposia, an oral history project and a memorial service. (www.pace.edu/paceremembers911)

This Book of Remembrance at Pace University in NYC lists the names of four students and 43 alumni killed in the 9/11 attacks

They’ll also remember four students and 43 alumni lost to 9/11 — with a reading of names, a release of 47 balloons, a candlelight vigil and more. A community viewing of memorial events at Ground Zero is scheduled for members of the Pace community on 9/11.

Perhaps because my own children were 8, 10 and 12 at the time of the attacks on 9/11, there’s a special place in my heart for the voices of young people directly affected by them. So one event taking place at Pace holds special appeal.

It’s a debut performance of “Ten Years Later: Voices from a Post-9/11 Generation Speak” — an exploration written by 13 young people ages nine to 21 that’ll take place on the stage where Bravo TV films its “Inside The Actors Studio.” Celebrities take note. These kids will be a tough act to follow.

— Lynn

Note: To learn more about the World Trade Center, visit www.wtc.com, www.panynj.gov/wtcprogress and www.911memorial.org/world-trade-center-history.

Coming up: The 9/11 memorial and museum takes shape, More 9/11 events featuring artworks by youth, Remembering 9/11 through arts and culture