This morning was sunny, crisp and beautiful, and it felt very much like the morning of September 11, 2001. My tween and I were late for school, but on our way out the door, I stopped to put out our American flag. My tween was surprised, because being on time is really important to me. I explained that putting the flag out today was even more important to me.
I asked her if she knew what today was and she responded with glee, “K’s birthday!” I wasn’t expecting an excited, happy response. Turns out one of her good friend turns 11 year old today. She was born the day the terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people.
I know I’ve talked to my tween about the events of September 11, 2011 before, but her friend’s birthday is more important. Maybe that’s as it should be. Life goes on, and every single day should be celebrated. This moving piece by a girl who was 8 years old when her father was killed reminded me of that.
But I also want my daughter to know what happened. I want her to know of the lives lost, and of the incredible bravery shown at all three sites that day. I wanted her to know how this nation came together. So we talked about it on the way to school. I fully admit that the car is not the best place to tell her about heroes on the plane in that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, but I wanted her to know.
We’ve talked about 9/11 before, several times. I wonder why it doesn’t quite stick, but she wasn’t born yet. Those images and stories were not seared into her mind. Living history is always different from learning about it after the fact.
For those who want to do a better job than I have discussing 9/11 with tweens and kids in general, here are some resources. We’ll be revisiting our conversation this afternoon, and more continuously.
- How to talk to kids about 9-11 by child psychologist Richard Rende of Brown University and parent of a tween
- A Decade Later: Talking to Kids About 9/11 by child and adolescent psychologist Dr. Harold Koplewicz
- Talking with Kids about 9/11: Lessons in Compassion by Lisa Vratny-Smith, MSW
- 9/11Day.org has links to request teaching tools that will be emailed to you.
Tweens often want to do something, and taking advantage of 9/11 a National Day of Service is a great way to let them know that they can make a difference. 9/11 Day is “a movement built on people remembering through positive action” and the website lists volunteer activities. Also check out serve.gov for the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance for information and volunteer opportunities.