Ten years later, we still need to talk to our children about 9/11. As the anniversary approaches, parents of young children face a tough challenge: explaining that day’s events to children who were either not born or too young to remember.
It’s unavoidable to shield children from accounts they will inevitably read, see or hear. Parents trying to explain 9/11 to a 6-year-old, for example, can say that a bad thing happened in our country and that it was a terrible time and many innocent people died, but that the government has taken steps to keep us safe.
More than ever September 11th can become a day to remember our losses while we strengthen our belief in America. It is a day to instill pride in our hearts that we are citizens and we live in the most amazing country in the world. As a people, we are empowered to continue the legacy of hope, patriotism and commitments to our country.
So it’s important to tread carefully and be sure the information kids are exposed to is age appropriate. Consider your child's age and maturity level. Younger children can be told of a "deliberate" plane crash and how many people were hurt. Older ones can hear more information. But for most, details of people jumping out of tall buildings and promises of virgin brides can be deleted from the conversation unless they ask specifically about that. If they have heard "rumors," those comments should be carefully addressed.
Use the information and the day as a "teachable moment" to explain why our country is so wonderful. Speak of the amazing heroes who risked their own lives to save others.
Consider teaching your children tolerance and respect. Our nation was built by people of various cultures, religions and countries coming together and forming a nation where everyone should be allowed to live in peace. Many Americans cried on that fateful day. Whether Athesist, Muslim, Jewish or Christian, our pain was shared by all.
Tell children that "freedom" comes with many guarantees in addition to rules. We abide by those rules so that we can live in harmony together.
Despite all of our current economic insecurities and problems, one thing has not changed. America remains the land of the free. Rich or poor, privileged or not, we are the luckiest people in the world to be able to live here and to call this land our home. Whatever we say to our children about the tragedy of 9/11, our patriotism for our country and respect for all should be in the forefront of our minds.
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