How to Talk to Your Kids About 9/11 (Or Not)

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You may be thinking, “your a little late aren’t you? I could have used this advice yesterday.”

Hang with me, you’ll see.

My kids weren’t even a thought when 9/11 happened. But once I did have a few kids I wondered how I would ever talk to them about that awful day.

How can you tell your innocent, sweet, precious child about such things? Well, I didn’t think about it long enough to actually come up with a good plan for that day. I guess I hoped it never would.

Silly me!

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One day my husband and I were on our way to a wedding with two of our kids. We were all dressed up looking nice and pretty.  It was Labor Day weekend and the anniversary (I think the 10 year) was coming up in a few days. My husband needed to run into a drug store for something so he left us in the car while he ran in. The three of us were sitting there listening to the radio while we waited quietly. Almost immediately after my husband got out of the car the announcer started talking about the 9/11 anniversary and the events of that fateful day.

Then the questions started coming from the back seat. “What happened, Mommy?” “Were you there?”

I new I had to say something. I could’t change the subject, they were too old for that trick. They were sitting in booster seats now! So like most uncomfortable topics I decided to tackle it head on with enough information that they know the truth and know that I will give them answers and not hide things, but not so much that I tell them more than they need (or want).

So I just started. “Well it was a really scary and sad day…” This, that and some other things were explained and when I got to the part about the men on the 4th plane that took it down before it hurt anyone… I lost it.

I mean, LOST IT.

There I sat talking through my sobs like a child. Eyes pouring tears. Mascara running down my face. Trying to catch my breath. I was a sight.

Then one of the girls (and mind you the OLDEST at the time was only 6) let me off the hook and said, “Mommy it’s OK, please stop crying, you are going to ruin your makeup.”

So I pulled myself together. Quickly. And the conversation was over.

My husband came out of the store and got back in the car.

No one said a word. It was months later before any of us told him what happened that morning in the car. I would have, but I was too embarrassed and I am sure the girls didn’t want to get me started again by saying a word.

They did get a good laugh out of it when we finally broke the silence – months later.

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So yesterday I finally had the opportunity to redeem myself and handle this teaching moment with poise and grace. This time number 2 was asking me questions because it came up in class.

Well, I failed again. I was a little more graceful about it, but not much. OK, maybe not at all. I’m just wishing.

So my advice to you is that you should definitely consult someone who has it all together on this topic because I have no idea what I am doing.

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I can only pray that through my tears they know I will talk to them with transparency about anything; that I am a real person with feelings and that feelings are not only OK, but normal; and that 9/11 was serious and life altering for our country, a piece of history to know and understand; and that they should go ask their dad all about it.

So while I can’t be of much help, I do wish you the best of luck in your conversations!

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