How to Talk to your Kids about September 11


september 11Twenty years ago, on September 11, 2001, I was teaching 6th grade in a middle school. Like every morning, Channel One news was playing as the kids trickled in.

The big news story was that a commercial airline flight had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. I had heard of smaller planes crashing into buildings before, and I knew how tight air traffic was, especially around New York City, but to hear this had happened was quite shocking. As we were watching the live coverage and hearing the reporter’s thoughts about how this happened, we actually saw the second plane come in and hit the second tower. 

My jaw dropped. I couldn’t fully comprehend what was happening, but I knew this wasn’t just an accident anymore I also knew that we were all experiencing a moment together that we would always remember. We all sat in silence, eyes glued to the TV until the bell rang for the first period.

We tried to go about our day as normally as possible. The principal came on the intercom several times during the day to ask that the staff members check their email as more information was coming in about the other planes that were hijacked.

There was a sense of panic in the air. Teachers mumbling to each other in the hall, Students wanting to know more, and teachers not knowing how to respond. Parents were coming and pulling their kids and taking them home for the day. It was awful. I am truly not really sure how we made it through that day.

It’s amazing to me that it’s been twenty years already. But then, it’s hard to imagine what life before 9/11 was like. So many changes happened because of that day.

A big question I get as a teacher is “what, if anything, should we say to our kids about this day?”

Here are my tips for talking to kids about September 11

  • Start simple, and early. Use age-appropriate language and topics. A three-year-old does not need to know all the tough details, but older kids may want to know more about what the world was like and what led up to something like this happening.
  • Go see the Tribute Trail at Gray’s Lake. It really is a striking memorial. When you talk about how every flag represents a life that was lost, it really hits home the magnitude of what happened that day.
  • Talk about the helpers. Our country really came together in an amazing way in the aftermath of this tragedy. Point out the wonderful ways we helped each other during those dark days.
  • Reassure your kids that we have learned a lot from what happened and have taken measures to ensure that a tragedy like this will not happen again. 
  • Use resources to help guide your discussions. Here are a couple of websites and documentaries that are excellent for kids:
  • Share your story. Your kids will want to know where you were, what you were doing, and what you were feeling on that day. 

I do believe it’s important to talk to your kids about this day in our history. You are their safe place. Encourage questions, and let them know you might not have all the answers.

I will never forget my youngest asking me, “Why would anyone do something like that, Mom?” It was a hard conversation, but a great way to talk about the fact that there are just people out there who don’t always do the right thing.

I don’t want my kids to be sheltered from the truth. I want to be there to talk things over so they aren’t scared, either. These tough conversations are so good for building trust between you and your children.

How will you talk to your kids about September 11?

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Jennifer is a single mom of two boys. She does her best to get to places on time, despite being a chronically late person and the fact that neither she or her boys are morning people. She recently went back into the classroom after staying home for nine years to raise her kids, and she credits her sanity and success at this endeavor to the fact that she has incredibly supportive parents, family, and friends. She also has a network of single moms that truly “get it” and who encourage her on a daily basis. When she’s not hanging out with her kiddos, Jennifer enjoys writing at a coffee shop, trying new restaurants, or catching up with friends.


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