How to talk to kids about 9/11

Sep 11, 2012, 5:12 PM | Updated: 5:12 pm

As today’s anniversary once again calls to mind images of the terrorist attacks 11 years ago, parents across the U.S. wonder how to best approach the topic with their children.

“Directly affected or not, even the smallest Americans have felt the reverberations of the terrorists attacks,” the Washington Post reported.

Help children anticipate this reaction, David J. Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, told the Washington Post. “Advise them on how to limit or handle grief triggers (which might include limiting exposure to media coverage of the event) and offering additional physical presence and emotional support around the time of the anniversary.”

Adults should teach respect, diversity and tolerance, Schonfeld said. “Remind children that just because one group of people committed a terrorist attack, it doesn’t mean that every person of a different ethnic group, religious group of country would do the same thing.”

Offer sincerity, extra attention and thoughts and feelings when the child expresses their concerns, Schonfeld said.

“For now, I have chosen not to tell them any of these things, or even about the attacks more generally, because they are children and deserve to have a childhood as long as I can possibly protect it,” Julie Scelfo at the New York Times reported.

In response to a local murder the children heard about, Scelfo and her husband responded, “‘That’s so sad, so awful,’ we told them, trying to give them clues on how to absorb the incomprehensible. As if we really knew how to do that ourselves.”

The consequences of that day are commonplace to today’s children, Cara Mia DiMassa observed at the Los Angeles Times. “They have never known a world in which you don’t take off your shoes before you board an airplane or undergo a body scan when you visit the Statue of Liberty.”

Someday DiMassa said she will tell her daughters the whole story. “I will tell of people jumping out of the burning buildings, a front page of horror so emblazoned on my memory that it never seems to recede,” DiMassa said. “The conversation is not far off. But for now, those stories will have to wait.”

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at or visit

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How to talk to kids about 9/11