Have you noticed? Interspersed with the hurricane and US budget discussions, the news is starting to talk about 9-11… a lot! As a Dad, I really hadn’t really thought yet about the impending onslaught of 10th anniversary 9-11 coverage and how it might affect my 3 year old daughter. Sure we all monitor our kids’ television viewing, but it’s going to be hard to prevent them from seeing and hearing about 9-11, and they are going to have questions.
“The most important rule is to take any question very seriously and just deal with that question,” says Richard Rende, a Child psychologist, professor at Brown University and blogger for Parents.com. “‘Less is more’ is a very good principle with kids. Let them direct you and don’t make assumptions about what they want to know. You can answer a question without going into detail,” he said. “You can try to be honest without being graphic.”
This may be the first time my little girl asks me about death. In her three years she’s not yet lost a family member or pet, so that topic hasn’t come up. Have you spoken to your kids about death? Seeing or hearing about (on TV or from other kids) the tragedy of 9-11 is going to cause feelings of fear and insecurity in many children. We need to be prepared and proactive in letting our kids know they can and should come to us with questions.
Advice for talking to kids about 9-11
- Don’t wait for your kids to approach you; let them know the lines of conversation are open.
- Set aside a time to do this when you won’t be quickly interrupted.
- Answer simply and directly. Less is more. Be honest without being graphic.
- Listen to the kids and let their questions guide you. Don’t broach new subjects they haven’t asked about.
- Be reassuring. Give them the confidence that they’re okay.
- Monitor their exposure to media as best you can.
- Be prepared for the conversation to continue after the anniversary.
I would like to thank David Orenstein on the News Staff at Brown University for allowing me to share some of Professor Rende’s suggestions with you. If you found this helpful, or if you have any additional thoughts on how you’ve discussed 9-11 or just death in general with your kids please leave a comment below. The more we can share with each other as parents, the better prepared we will be to help our kids live in this ever more frightening world.