Discussing September 11th with young children

One day my children will ask me exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. I will recount the details of how I heard about the attacks while filling up my car at a gas station, how their father was leading a workshop at the local airport, and how time simply stood still that day. I will recount the fear I felt and how the husband and I sat together that evening as newlyweds wondering if the world around us was coming to a complete hault in a horrific manner we never imagined.


Today though my children are only four and two. They do not understand the significance behind the date of September 11th and need not hear the graphic retelling of that day’s events. However, they may have questions  that need to be responded to about 9/11. Below are some ways parents can discuss difficult world situations with young children without causing excess worry or fear.

  • Prepare for the discussion. Decide beforehand exactly how you will frame  a discussion about difficult news stories or world situations. Have a simple summary of events prepared that can be easily relayed to little minds.


  • Be honest. Lying to children about events can only add to confusions and misunderstandings.


  • Share only necessary information. Young children do not need to know  graphic details about death or terror. When talking to children about 9/11, let the discussion focus on the heroic efforts of our citizens in a time when our nation was under attack.


  • Reassure. Provide the reassurance that your child is loved and is safe. Let them know that their family is okay and that their little world is secure.


  • Answer questions. Allow children to ask any questions they may have and answer  such inquiries  truthfully. If you do not have an answer, research the question and provide an answer at a later time.


  • Use the opportunity to discuss patriotism. When world tragedy hits, parents can use that moment to discuss what being patriotic means and how citizens of a country can unite and support each other. Find books or other forms of media that can help in the process of explaining what it means to be a patriotic citizen.

Someday my children will be ready to hear about how their father and I fared on that day in September of 2001. Until then, I will supply them with a basic understanding of that day and then let them return to their childhood world of wonder and security.

Lynley Baker Phillips is a stay-at-home mommy to two, blogger, former special education teacher, and referee in all major toy disputes. Her writings have been featured in various publications and on her mother's refrigerator door. Contact her at savethephillipsfamily@hotmail.com

One Comment

  1. Great information Lynley – and I totally agree with your tips!

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