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Teaching Your Kids About 9/11

The importance of sharing the tragic events of September 11, 2001 with your children.

In early August it seemed fitting, almost obvious, for my column this week to be about September 11th. 

After, objectively pondering “the angle” in which I would present, it seemingly felt appropriate to write about how we, as parents, should discuss this fateful day with our children.  Mother Knows Best is, after all, a parenting column.

Imagine the surprise when someone, as wordy as myself, found themselves at a loss for words.  Stricken with the inability to summarize my perspective and research, I stared at my laptop blankly. 

I kept wondering…“Who am I?”

“Who am I” to offer advice, research based or other wise?  “Who am I” to offer my perspective of bridging this topic with your kids?

You see, the Mother Knows Best column has always covered topics in which I had first-hand experience.  But in this case, I was spared the direct loss of a loved one, a friend or even an acquaintance. (I make such a statement with both a bit of thankfulness and guilt.) Therefore, I am left conflicted and feeling as offering advice would be presumptuous.  

Over the years, I have learned that the poignancy one feels toward September 11th, and its aftermath, is extremely individual, comparable to religious and political beliefs.  Or, possibly a more probable comparison would be to the conviction that one has to their parenting style.

Luckily, I know a little bit about a parent’s convictions.  So I will share with you, as I have in previous columns, my most sincere parenting advice…

Only you know your child, and no two children interpret information the same, especially topics of this magnitude.  Age and maturity will be your most influential guide. 

Similar to the tip provided in the Mother Knows Best column, which dealt with parents telling their children about the earthquake and tsunami which devastated Japan, answer only what is asked. 

We all know that our kids will let us know when they require additional information!

If, as a parent, you decide to shelter your school-age child from this weekend’s anniversary memorials and their anticipated media coverage, I encourage you to really consider this decision.  Ignorance is not always bliss. 

The events of September 11th have, inevitably, affected every American alive in 2001.  It is probable that the entire nation can answer the question Alan Jackson poses in his famous song title,  “Where were you when the world stopped turning” on that September day?  

Here we are, a decade after the twin towers fell and the Pentagon was jeopardized, emotions remain raw, almost as if no time at all has past.  But, it is an integral part of U.S. history, akin to Pearl Harbor, though it may not feel that way.

As a historical event, it does our children a disservice to pretend it didn't happen (age-appropriately, of course!)  My children were not born in 2001 and therefore my approach is almost identical to teaching them (well, primarily my 1st grader) from a history book. 

My intention is to provide some background of the specifics surrounding commonly viewed images before or while they see them.  With today’s technology what it is, watching it on T.V. could almost be like watching a movie or video game to kids who weren't old enough or even born when it occurred. 

Personally, the mere mention of September 11, regardless of context, invokes pause.  I find myself consumed by the instant recollection of the many graphic images that aired, almost continuously, that fateful day. 

While children too young to remember or born post 9-11 will obviously have a different perception, perspective is key.

Parents instill the perspective.

The best thing we can do for our children is to highlight the minute positives that this grave tragedy has presented. 

When we pay our respects to all those that perished before their time through moments of silence and interfaith celebrations, we are teaching empathy. 

When we hug each other that much tighter and remember not to take the little things for granted, we are teaching appreciation. 

And, when we, then, express our thanks for the many freedoms our country affords us, we instill pride in our country.

God Bless America!

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