September 11, 2020 marks the 19th anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks of 2001. With so much time passed, parents might not realize that children see the attacks as a distant historical event that happened before they were born. They just don’t connect to it in the same way as people who were alive when it happened. So how can you teach your child to appreciate the importance of 9/11? Experts recommend complete factual and emotional honesty.
“When you talk to your kids about 9/11, stick to the facts,” psychologist Blanca Cobb told WFMY News. “Explain what happened based on your kid’s developmental level. For younger kids, broad statements will work whereas older kids might want and can handle more details.”
Cobb said parents should emphasize the sacrifices of the heroes who gave their lives and stressed being upfront about your own feelings. “If you’re teary-eyed, it’s more than okay to show your emotion,” she said.
According to Cobb, younger kids might not immediately recognize the importance of learning about something so long ago. “You can help them understand all the ways our country continues to protect us,” she said. “A terrorist attack is a possible and realistic danger facing our country. And kids should understand this possibility while continuing to live smartly and safely.”
A Helpful Resource
To help parents teach their children about the attack, HBO is streaming What Happened on September 11, a documentary meant to explain the events of 9/11 to children. The movie is currently available on the HBOMax platform.
“Designed in response to children’s questions about the attacks, the film features kids in conversation with survivors and family members, historical segments, and classroom scenes exploring 9/11 through artwork and poetry,” according to HBO’s description of the documentary.
The film follows Secaucus Middle School students as they visit the 9/11 Tribute Museum. There, they listen to firsthand accounts of people who witnessed the attack. This includes Stephen Kern, who was evacuated from the North Tower, and Matthew Crawford, whose father, a firefighter, was killed in the South Tower. In addition, the film includes background information on Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and the events leading up to the attack.
The film also shows the students processing their feelings about the attack through creativity.
“Back in the classroom, the students create art projects and write poems about 9/11, an assignment their teachers Melissa Heintjes and Doug Depice give as part of a unique interdisciplinary approach to teaching 9/11, helping kids make an ‘emotional connection to history,’” said HBO.
By listening to firsthand accounts, exploring the history behind the attacks, and interpreting them through art, the students in What Happened on September 11 learn about a terrible but important chapter in American history in order to understand how it still affects our lives to this day.