The Tough Stuff :: Talking About 9/11 With Your Kids

talking about 9/11 with kids 

“Mom, what happened on 9/11? Why is it such a big deal?”

Where do I even start? I’m not sure how much to share when my oldest asks me these questions. I don’t know how to answer. For something this important, I feel so unprepared. I lived through 9/11, so it’s not like I haven’t had time to prepare. I was a senior in High School. I should be able to handle this like a pro. Talk about feeling unprepared as a mother.


A piece of the south Twin Tower as a memorial at Friday Night Life in Waukesha.

We headed down to Waukesha’s Friday Night Live and there was a piece of the Twin Towers there. I overheard my son telling his friend that it was all ISIS’s fault and they were all really bad people. One, the kid needs a serious fact check. And two, how do I explain this day in history without inducing more hate into the next generation? How do I educate him in a way that inspires love and hope but that doesn’t try to sugar-coat what happened? Unlike his mother, my kid loves history and wants to know way more than I feel prepared to share.

It’s no surprise that during bedtime cuddles he asked me again about 9/11. He said something about ISIS again and I figured I better get my facts straight before going on too much farther. Pronto. I searched YouTube for 9/11 news coverage. I figured it would be somewhat censored and age appropriate for a 10 year-old. Accurate but no blood and gore.

We laid there watching channel after channel of the news coverage. I heard the shock and horror of the news reporters, as the world watched the second plane hit. Tears. Silent tears rolled down my cheeks as I remembered this day. You can talk about it all you want, but there is a grave understanding when you watch it happen live. My heart broke all over again for the children and families who were broken that day. My heart swelled for the brave heroes who lost their lives for a greater good. My tears fell in remembering how terrified I was that day.

We all have a story around 9/11. Do you remember where you were when the planes hit? Have you shared that with your kids?

I was a senior in High School, standing by my locker before second period. I spent the whole day watching news coverage in each of my following classes. I remember the look on my mom’s face when we walked through the door that night. A pit in my stomach, nausea and worry about our safety. Uncertainty of what was going to happen next. How do I explain this to my boy when I still don’t fully understand it myself, even fifteen years later?

So I started searching. I wanted help with the conversation and I found some really helpful resources. I hope it helps you with those tough conversations …

BrainPop :: Short, sweet and to the point. Gives an overview of the four planes that crashed and a brief overview of Al Qaeda. :: A wealth of educational material about the events on 9/11. In their download “Tips for Talking to Your Children” it confirms that it’s a complex event and it’s ok not to know all our children’s answers. PHEW! :: This site has a brief, factual article. It defines what happened, who attacked us and how the USA responded.

Today Parents :: Offers guidance on age appropriate conversations. However, does not give history facts on how to tell the story.

ABC News :: An interview with a child psychologist on how to have conversations about 9/11.

In a world of such pain, hurt and hate we need to teach our children the facts of what happened (in an age appropriate way of course). BUT we owe it to the mothers who died that day to teach them in a way that honors the past and offers hope of acceptance for the future. Just like Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” Show them all the amazing heroes of that day.

How have you handled these conversations with your kids? Do you have other resources you’d like to share? Please add your resources to the comments below.

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