Updated on 9/8/2011 11:37:52 AM.
By: Jennifer Wetzel
The anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, reminds us of the thousands of lives lost on that day and the shock, fear, and heartbreak felt in this nation and around the world. As people reflect on the horrific events that occurred a decade ago, children will likely hear and see stories about the tragedy, begging the question – how do parents talk to their kids about 9/11?
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for talking to your kids about this or any other catastrophic event,” says Vanderbilt professor of psychology Tedra Walden.
Walden has done extensive research on the social and emotional development of young children, particularly the effects of unfamiliar events on children’s emotions and social competence. She offers these suggestions for talking to children about this difficult topic:
Walden reminds parents that in any situation, children often react the way you react. “If you are crying and upset then they are likely to get upset, but if you are much more neutral, then they are likely to respond in a more neutral way.”
The most important thing to remember when talking to children about any tragic event is to focus the conversation toward the child’s level of understanding, Walden says. Parents should stay calm and watch for signs of stress in their child.
Jan Rosemergy can answer your media-related questions or help connect you to one of our science or disability professionals.
Help the VKC improve its web site by completing a short survey. Your feedback is important to us!