Talking To (And Teaching) Our Kids About 9/11

image credit: Mariah Aro Sharp @mightymooseart

image credit: Mariah Aro Sharp @mightymooseart

I watched the Towers fall. 

The Today Show was the background noise of every morning for our family in 2001. So I saw it. My children saw it. We stood transfixed, watching tragedy unfold before our eyes.  

My oldest child had just turned six and had started first grade. How do you explain terrorism to a six-year-old? I had only just turned 27. I could barely understand it myself. So I did all I knew to do, I let her ask me questions and I answered them.

Talking with our kids about tragedy will never be easy, but it will always be important. 

Here are some tips (pulled from the 9/11 Memorial site) for talking to your kids about 9/11 (followed by some activities you can do with them to honor the victims and the day, and some additional resources):

1. Listen.

They might want to talk. They might not. Either is fine. Let them lead. 

2. Don't avoid the conversation.

Don't change the subject or avoid the difficult conversations just because they are difficult. They are necessary.

3. Be prepared.

They will probably want to discuss death and other related issues, i.e., Where do we go? What happens? Does it hurt?

4. Be specific.

Give developmentally appropriate, but specific, answers. I don't know is an acceptable answer, too. 

5. Reassure them of their safety.

Be calm. Kids feed off of the energy of the adults around them. Be mindful of your tone and posture. 

6. Answer questions with facts. 

The History Channel has a good summary of the most basic info. You don't have to be an engineer or a physicist to provide factual information. 

7. Acknowledge that we don't have all the answers. 

Life is like that, and it's fine to say so. 

Some resources, art, and activities for kids of all ages:

Here's a sweet freebie. 

For the younger kids who might not be quite old enough to grasp the concept of terrorism and tragedy, 9/11 is still a great day to talk about what first responders do.

Also a great day to take treats to your favorite fire or police station! No one doesn't like treats.

Do you know what an agamographs is?

Yeah, me either.

This site has a downloadable agamograph that is 9/11 specific. It's a few bucks but probably worth it if  you/your kids like to color. 

If you have several kids, or a classroom full, even better. 

I'm going to do this one myself. 

Also from Teachers Pay Teachers, a Remembrance Chain.

This looks like it would be a great activity for a younger class of kids or to do as a family.

Again, it's a few bucks but probably worth it if you have a lot of kids or a big class. 

There is an option to include the name of someone who lost their life in the attacks, and a great way to open up a dialogue about the number of lives lost (2,996).

remembrance chain

For older kids, Brain Pop has an interactive history lesson with quizzes and interactive learning. This is a great resource for teachers as well.

Here is some sweet free subway art from Eye Candy.

free subway art from Eye Candy


Some books:

America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell (Actual Times)

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey 

Saved by the Boats: The Heroic Sea Evacuation of September 11

I'm a sucker for anything with a hand print: 

Septemeber 11th isn't a piece of American History that we are happy to discuss, but it is one that we need to discuss. 


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