Your kids and September 11th. Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel, LMFT

There are those events that people remember where they were when they heard the news: Pearl Harbor, Kennedy assassination, September 11th.

Some of your kids are old enough to remember, others may have vague memories, others not at all.  Regardless, as we approach the 10th anniversary, your kids are experiencing what happened from a whole new perspective and awareness. Even though you’ve talked about the tragedies before, this year is different.

Sure, your kids are talking about it in school and with your friends.  And then there’s the Internet, where there are seemingly limitless videos of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers, people jumping out of the towers, and conspiracy theorists claiming that the planes really didn’t crash.  I was pretty sickened by it all when I did research today. My guess is that your kids are also having strong reactions, and it’s your role to help them as much as possible.

Open up a conversation with your kids, be it at a meal, in the car, or casually sitting around at home.  As much as your kids will want to hear what you have to say, it’s crucial to give them an opportunity to talk.  Raise the issue and encourage your children to share thoughts and feelings and ask questions.  Younger kids will likely want to talk.  Older ones will likely blow you off and tell you that it doesn’t matter and they aren’t worried.  Don’t believe them.

Kids are driven by emotional connection to events.  For those of you who knew someone (or someone who knew someone) who was killed, this can be a way to bring the events to a personal level for kids and get them talking.

Another way to approach things is to have them experience firsthand what occurred by attending memorial events.  In Sacramento, there are three different tributes at the Capitol, an exhibit at Cal Expo, a memorial 5K walk/run, a memorial climb, church services and vigils, just to name a few.

For those of you who aren’t into deep conversations or attending ceremonies, perhaps you’ll spend some quiet time at home with your family.  Maybe you’ll work in your garden or plant a tree.  Maybe you’ll go through your closets and gather clothes for donation.  Find something peaceful to do and briefly acknowledge the importance of the day.

Your kids (especially your teens) will probably complain about having to do stuff.  Don’t give in.  This is too important an event to let pass by without acknowledging what happened ten years ago.  Keep in mind that your kids are confused and likely somewhat afraid.  As much as anything else, your kids want to feel safe, reassured, and loved. By doing something you’ll help your kids (and you) feel this way.

3 Responses to Your kids and September 11th. Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel, LMFT
  1. Betsy
    September 9, 2011 | 5:50 am

    Especially like your suggestion doing something for others that day…gathering clothes, calling someone you haven’t in a long time. Very interesting article

  2. TJ
    January 15, 2013 | 2:44 am

    Sept. 11 is a tender time for us. My son was 3, and, my daughter, not yet born, when Jonathan died in the South Tower. A couple of years ago, a friend helped set up a memorial for my kids and I. A group of 12 of our closest friends, and, my therapist, all gathered on a sunny afternoon. Two of my friends played a couple of choice songs, I spoke, my kids listened, and, my friends had the opportunity to share their memories of 9/11, as did my therapist. It was a healing moment, and, afterward, we let go of white balloons on which we wrote that pain we each held from our own lives…and, a thought to pass on to another.
    My son is supportive of my needs on the anniversary, although he no longer has clear memories. Ironically, my daughter, never having met him, freely tells her classmates about her father dying in the Tower. She has made memory books for me, of us as a family, has drawn pictures, and sometimes just needs to tell me she is sad thinking of him, and, how one day we will be all together again…with Jonathan there to meet me, then her and my son.

    Thank you for creating a space to encourage others to share. That is what our memorial service was for, so, it could be meaningful for all there.

    Apologies for the long comment. Good-looking blog, btw, although, I only visit a small number, so, I’m no expert ;-).


    • Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel
      January 15, 2013 | 4:23 am


      Thank-you so much for sharing your personal experience. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine the pain you’ve experienced. I don’t know what I’d do without my wife there to support me and parent our child.

      As a Californian, it was somewhat difficult to connect to the horrors of that day. It was only through the experiences of others that I was able to truly have a sense of others’ pain. Thank-you for adding to the richness of my understanding.

      My hope is that you’ll share my post with others who continue to struggle with the grief of what happened that horrible day.

      My best!

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