November 2001

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Terrorist Aftermath: Trauma

Talking with Your Kids About Terrorism and the Events of September 11, 2001

Talking with Your Kids About Terrorism
As we struggle to make sense of it all and go on with our daily lives, it's important to pay special attention to our children.


By Lois Salisbury

President, Children Now

In arrangement with

All of us are traumatized by the events of September 11th.  As we struggle to make sense of it all and go on with our daily lives, it's important to pay special attention to our children, who also are impacted by the terrible tragedies they see and hear being discussed around them and on the news. 


There are a number of guidelines for talking with your kids about what they see in the news, which apply whether the topic is a school shooting or a devastating hurricane. 


In a recent piece on how to talk with your kids about the news, the Talking with Kids About Tough Issues campaign ( emphasizes the importance of being honest, considering age appropriateness, providing context, sharing your own feelings, and initiating -- not waiting for -- these conversations to take place.

In addition to these tips, here are some specific suggestions for talking with your kids about terrorism and the tragic events of September 11, 2001:

  • Ask your kids about their feelings.  Assure them it is normal to feel angry, confused, sad or worried.

  • Explain terrorism.  By hurting people and places we care about, terrorists communicate anger and create fear. They want to disrupt our normal lives, but we re going to do our best not to let that happen.  We re going to keep working, learning, loving because those are the things that we do best every day and that really matter.

  • Assure them about safety.  Acknowledge that this was an attack on the United States and that for all of us, this feels different than other bad things that have happened before. At the same time, our government, caring adults like teachers and law enforcement and you, as parents, are going to do everything we can to assure our safety.  We can never be 100% certain that something like this won t happen to us, but the odds are overwhelming that it will not.  When we can know in advance that there s even a small chance of danger, we will take precautions to keep our kids safe.

  • Pay attention to the home environment.  Do your best to control the home environment, so that your children are not overexposed to television, to adult conversation that might be too big for them, to strong feelings that they might not understand or which could upset them.  Try to re-establish your home routine as much as possible.

  • Recognize all of the good that is coming out in people.  These kinds of tragedies also bring out the good in people, from the lines of people giving blood, to the calm so many people demonstrated in crisis, to the heroism of fire fighters and law enforcement.

  • Accept all of your children's feelings unconditionally.  Each child will be different. Some will want to talk, others will want to be distracted.  Check in with your child and accept where he or she is at.

Children Now, a child policy and advocacy organization, coordinates the national Talking with Kids About Tough Issues campaign ( with the Kaiser Family Foundation.