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ASU professor advises parents on how to talk to your kids about 9/11

The 'Tribute in Light' memorial lights up lower Manhattan near One World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Wednesday marks the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and for parents talking to their kids about what happened, that day could be difficult.

Suniya Luthar, foundation professor of psychology at Arizona State University, said she recommends parents wait until their kids are at least 10 years old.

“This is not a topic I would bring up for preschoolers and kindergartens,” she said. “It’s just too much for a young child to grasp the intensity of it.”

Luthar said when talking to your kids about the 9/11 attacks, she recommends keeping it simple and talking to them using words they’ll understand.

“You could say sometimes, unfortunately, human beings can do bad things – things that are unkind and destructive to each other,” she said. “That can sometimes be done on a pretty large and frightening scale.”

At the same time, she said parents should let their children know these kinds of events are rare. It’s not something they should be worried about happening in their own lives or in their own backyards.

When it comes to graphic images and videos, there may not be any reason to show them to children.

Luthar recalled she was on a plane from Washington, D.C., to New York, where she lived at the time, when the first plane hit one of the Twin Towers.

“I had to fly back to DC and stay in a hotel where all of us who couldn’t get back home were watching on a television screen what was happening,” she said. “To this day, I can remember it was just so traumatic to watch for us grown people.”

Luthar added she doesn’t see any advantages to showing the images to children.

“I frankly can’t comprehend why we’d want to do that,” she said.

Parents could end the conversation by asking their children how they’re feeling and if there’s anything that frightens them or that they’d like to know more about.

“I think that’s a general principle for us as parents,” Luthar said. “Check in with your kids however old they are – whether they’re 2 or 25. Ask them, ‘How are you feeling, and is there anything that I can do to help set your heart and mind at ease?’”

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