How To Talk With Your Young Child About 9/11

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Although they may have been born after 9/11, young children may ask difficult question about the events of that day. Photo Credit: John Swinconeck

SHREWSBURY, Mass. — The following was compiled for parents of Parker Road Preschool in Shrewsbury, using various early childhood social development resources:

The Anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks is a significant event for the United States. While many preschoolers will remain unaware of the anniversary, your child may see or hear something that raises difficult questions and causes anxiety. While some children may ask questions outright, others may share their emotions indirectly through play or behavior (e.g. tantrums or crying). Here are some tips for supporting your child if he or she does ask questions or show an awareness of the September 11th events.

Be honest, but keep it simple. Don't overwhelm your little one with something that they don't have the developmental ability to understand yet. If your child begins asking questions, you may want to start with something such as, "There are people who did some mean things but we are safe." Take the lead from your child. If s/he's asking lots of questions, then you may want to share more. If s/he doesn't appear too interested, then change the subject and move on.

Reassure your child. Consider your child's point of view. Young children tie everything in to how it relates to them. They may become scared that something like this could happen to them in the future. Reassure your child that he or she is safe and that you and others are working hard to keep them safe.

Be aware of your own reactions. The events of that day are still painful for many of us. Young children look to adults for cues on how to respond to events and challenges. Your attitude and reactions will shape those of your children.

Limit exposure to television and other media. Media coverage will likely include footage of the attacks. While we know that this event happened years ago, your child won't necessarily understand that. Don't forget about newspapers with disturbing photos that may be lying around the house or what's on the radio – kids pick up on what we're reading and listening to more than we think they do.

Find the silver lining. Talk about the heroes of that day – the policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses, and other workers who did their best to help.

Spend time together. Whether it's playing a game or going for a walk together, doing enjoyable activities with your child reinforces your child's sense of stability and normalcy.

Share any concerns with your child's teacher. Please let the teacher know if you think your child is having a difficult time with the anniversary.

Debra Cushman, M.A., is the school psychologist for Parker Road Preschool.

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