September 11, 2009

When Will You Tell Your Children?

Today is one of those days that most of us will never forget. I can tell you where I was and what I was doing on this day in 2001. When I turned on the TV this morning, all the networks were airing tributes and remembrances. One of my daughters turned to me and asked me why a little girl on the TV was crying. "Something bad happened today," I explained. That answer seemed to be enough to appease her. Then I turned the channel and we watched "Dinosaur Train" on PBS.
At nearly-four I'm not sure the details of today are appropriate. I don't want my daughters to be scared of planes flying overhead, wondering if the planes will be crashing or flying into buildings. They don't have a real handle on death, yet, and I don't think it's something they're ready to hear about in this magnitude.
But it really has me thinking: at what age does it become appropriate to explain Sept. 11 and other tragic events to our children? It is important for all of our children to understand our history and how it shapes our future, but it needs to be done in a manner without scaring them. I'm at a bit of a loss.
On a personal note: thank you to all the men and women who have worked to protect our country and to their families who also make sacrifices so their loved ones can continue to preserve our freedom.


MaryAnne said...

I think (hope) the explanations unfold naturally over time as children get old enough to ask more questions. Of course, then they start asking the difficult "why do people do bad things" and "why do bad things happen to people" questions that I have no answers for...

Sadia said...

I suspect that I will have to teach my kids about this stuff sooner than most, since half their extended family is Muslim, and there is so much intolerance out there stemming from people making a knee-jerk connection between the 9/11 tragedy and Islam. I think my husband and I need to sit down and talk about how we'll discuss this with them and when will be the right time. We don't believe that there is a logical connection between the Iraq war and 9/11, but I understand that our girls will be exposed to that eventually and will need an explanation for their father's frequent absences in that context.

Melody and Jessie have had a little exposure to the ugliness that can exist in the world, in the form of the Nazis portrayed in The Sound of Music. We've talked about how they're "mean people" because they didn't learn how to be polite, considerate and kind. That seems to be enough for now. They pity the "mean people" for being mean, a reaction I'm pleased with.

Quadmama said...

Sadia, you were one of the people I was thinking about while I wrote this post... not because of your children's Muslim heritage but because of your husband's military service. I'm sure it brings a lot of harsh realities to the forefront a lot sooner than it would for other families.

Stephanie B said...

I don't know that there's a single age. Each child is different. It's hard and there are some uglinesses we have to share withour children - even though it shouldn't be that way, but I'm against immersing them in it either. Life is happy and it's OK, I think, for happy to be the focus.

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