Thursday, September 8, 2011

Helping your children understand 9/11

Published on KSL.com (click HERE for the link)

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was walking in the door from grocery shopping when my sister-in-law called, said, “Turn on your TV,” and hung up.

Seconds later, I watched live footage of United Airlines Flight 175 crash into the south tower of the World Trade Center. Since United Airlines Flight 11 had hit the north tower just 16 minutes before, cameras were already rolling.

Horrified, I knew that the world would never quite be the same.

I watched hour after hour of news coverage. I cried. I hugged my kids. I called my husband and parents and grandparents to tell them I loved them. When I learned that my brother had taken a flight out of Boston (the origin of Flight 11) that same morning, I cried some more.

In an effort to assuage my feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability, I joined thousands of others and donated time and money to organizations that were formed to aid victims and rebuild lives. I spent even more time and mental energy learning about the victims and the reasons and motivations behind the attacks.

I observed as political divisiveness all but disappeared, making room for solidarity and patriotism. As a nation, we prayed together despite religious differences. Countless examples of unselfishness, resiliency and hope moved me to tears.

I vowed to never forget.

A few days before Sept. 11 last year, my seven-year-old daughter walked in the door from second grade and said to me, “Mom, did you know that some bad guys flew airplanes into two really tall buildings in New York City and killed lots of people? And that the bad guys even died when they crashed into the buildings?”

My heart sank as I saw the fear and confusion in her eyes. I realized that as far as my kids knew, I had all but forgotten.

On Sept. 11, 2001, three of my children were under the age of six and two had yet to be born. Sept. 11 is nothing but a page out of history to them — unless I help make it otherwise. I had done my children a huge disservice by not preparing them for what would undoubtedly be discussed or at least mentioned by teachers, other kids and adults.

I vowed to do better.

Since this year marks the 10th anniversary of the attacks, news coverage and discussions will be abundant.

Following some of Dr. Harold Koplewicz’s suggestions in his article “A Decade Later: Talking to Kids About 9/11” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-harold-koplewicz/a-decade-later-talking-to_b_928443.html), I plan on having individual, age-appropriate discussions with my kids. I won’t shy away from the basic facts, but I will decide what kind of details, footage and news coverage to share with each child.

I’ll explain that many ordinary Americans reacted to the attacks with extraordinary unselfishness. Some of these inspiring accounts can be found in this lesson prepared by Constitution Rights Foundation Chicago titled, “Good Citizens in a Time of Emergency” (http://www.crfc.org/lessons/sept11.pdf).

I want my kids to understand that it's possible for millions of diverse individuals to set aside their differences and work toward a common good. And that demonstrating unselfishness, resiliency and hope can improve and change countless lives, including our own.

I'll try to explain all these things, but I’m sure that these talks with my kids won’t all go perfectly. I’ll be far from ideal as a discussion moderator, some of my kids won’t seem to care very much, and at least one of them will probably become exceedingly worked up about the terrorist acts themselves.

But it’s worth my best efforts, because remembering 9/11 is simply too important to forget.



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