How to Talk to Your Kids About 9/11

9/11 blog image

I recently heard a teenager say she loved attending the 9/11 memorial service in our town because she “loves history”. I almost laughed because Tuesday, September 11, 2001, doesn’t seem like history to me. It seems like yesterday.

I wonder if my grandmother, born in 1930 would have laughed if I told her Pearl Harbor Day was ancient history to me? She was only 11 years old when it happened, but I bet she remembers the fear and shock that reverberated through the country. Why didn’t she ever tell me about December 7, 1941? Why didn’t I ask her?

I want my kids to know about the terrorist attack on 9/11, now called Patriot’s Day, because it is a piece of history I experienced first hand. I also want them to know because I want them to be able to look at what is happening in our world today and see God’s hand. If your kids have questions about the recently-ended war in Afghanistan that began after 9/11, check out this post

So, how can we talk to our kids about 9/11 and God?

How to Talk To Your Kids About 9/11

First, tell them the truth. 

Focus on the facts of what happened. There were terrorists who highjacked planes because they wanted to hurt America and its citizens. It wasn’t an accident or a terrible mistake. It was an actual attack. Framing the experience in history, and including examples like Pearl Harbor or the Civil War, of other difficult chapters in America can help kids understand the gravity and rarity of the attack. 

Of course, your kids don’t need to know every detail or the play by play we saw unfolding on the news that horrible day. But there are books and websites offer information in age-appropriate ways.

Recommended Resources: : How To Talk To Children About Terrorism

Kids Books About 9/11 from Common Sense Media

The Nation Remembers (articles and teaching plans from Scholastic)

Next, focus on the stories.

A quick google search will bring up so many personal stories about 9/11, especially as we approach the twentieth anniversary. If you know someone who was personally affected, ask them to share their story with your family. By bringing history into story, your kids can connect on a more emotional level. As your kids hear stories, especially first-hand, they will start to develop empathy, a critical social-emotional milestone. 

These stories, along with the stories of the heroic firefighters and police officers who were running into the buildings,  are inspiring and encouraging.

One of my favorite stories is of the New York Harbor captains who evacuated half a million people after the attack. You can see their story in this 12-minute documentary called Boatlift.

Finally, point them to God.

If my kids watched me during a 9/11 memorial or documentary they would see tears flowing down my face. Little kids can get scared and nervous when their parents are upset. Even though our children might not grasp the terror of 9/11, they can grasp our pain and sadness.

When your children feel your sadness, or do recognize the terror of that day, remind them of our ultimate hope. Jesus promised His disciples and us, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

9/11 is proof that trouble is real and present in the world. But we can take heart because Jesus has overcome the world! He is the great King over all the earth! (Psalm 47:2)

Those who go to God Most High for safety will be protected by God All-Powerful. Psalm 91:1 ICB

Family Activity: Read Psalm 91 together. Write verses 1 and 2 on a piece of paper. Have your kids color, circle or decorate the words dwell, shelter, rest, shadow, refuge, fortress and trust. While they decorate, talk about how those words make them feel or what it makes them think of. Spend time praying and thanking God for protecting and surrounding us even in scary times.