Tuesday, September 10, 2013

National Day of Service and Remembrance: How do you talk to your children about September 11?

September 11 is National Day of Service and Remembrance, previously called Patriot Day. How do you talk to your children about the events that happened twelve years ago? Tyler is eight so he obviously wasn't born when the attacks happened but I feel it is important for him to know the 'why behind the what' as this is a national day of remembrance. Trying to explain why the attacks were planned is not a feat I choose to undertake right now because I don't feel confident I can explain it in a way that he can comprehend, just like it is difficult to explain other bad things people do.  I don't know about you all, but when he asks questions because he is truly trying to understand, there is no greater feeling of hopeless failure than having to respond, "some things we'll never know or understand, they just are".  That response is usually followed by this look of disappointment as if he is saying in his head, 'you're my parent, how do you not know these things? Any other time you act like you know everything else'.  (To know my son is to know that that could very possibly come out of his mouth)

I haven't talked to him about how I felt that day as the events unfolded and more information became available.  Having lived in Washington, DC to attend college and moving away just a year prior to the attacks happening, most of my friends were still in the area. My brother was in graduate school in DC at the time and not being able to get in touch with him just to hear his voice until later in the day was beyond mortifying.  My fiance' at the time lived in Louisiana and I remember there was speculation of attacks on nuclear power plants. There is a plant just outside of Baton Rouge which is where he is from and was in graduate school.  I called him so many times that day frantically crying when we couldn't get in touch with my brother and also making sure that he and his family were ok.  Like most, I remember the feeling of shock and the vulnerable feeling of anticipation, waiting for the next event to happen.

Many parents have varying views on talking to their children about incidents and topics such as this.  How much do you tell them? Do you go into great detail or do you just give enough to scratch the surface? How do you talk to your children about September 11 and similar events or difficult topics? If you lost family members or friends, what does your family do to honor them?