So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

September marks the beginning of a new school year for millions of children across the country. As our children begin to acclimate themselves to their new classroom environments, educators and parents are given the task of tackling the complex conversation surrounding the 9/11 anniversary, also called Patriot Day. Those of us who experienced the attacks first hand will undoubtedly be flooded with our own complicated mix of emotions. It doesn’t matter whether or not our children were old enough or even alive to remember the events of that tragic day. What does matter is how parents and educators work together to begin a conversation with our children that will leave them feeling both informed and safe.

 

1.) Open Communication: The beginning of the school year is an overwhelming time for parents, teachers and administration. Individual classroom teachers, more often than not, have discretion with regards to how they wish to present information relating to 9/11; unless the school itself has a curriculum already in place. Classroom teachers should be encouraged to reach out to parents via email with regards to the upcoming anniversary. This provides teachers the opportunity to discuss any planned classroom activities. It also allows parents the opportunity to respond to teachers and possibly inform them of any special circumstances or concerns.

If parents do not receive any communication regarding classroom 9/11 activities or school curriculum, then they should take the initiative to reach out to their child’s teacher or school principal. Parents may also choose to contact the school’s guidance counselor, school social worker or school psychologist for more information. Collaborating and communicating simultaneously sets a precedent for the entire school year by promoting informative dialogue between parents and schools.

2.) Listen & Be Present: A child’s school and home environment offer a safe space for them to ask difficult questions about September 11th. Some children will be more active participants in the conversation, while others may be more reserved. Both reactions are common. Utilizing open ended questions, such as “What would you like to know about 9/11?” or “Why do you think we remember the anniversary of September 11th?” are great starting points for teachers and parents. If the child was alive during the 9/11 attacks, adults may also approach the conversation based on the child’s own individual memories by asking, “What do you remember about that day?” When responding to children, parents and teachers must be mindful to use age-appreciate language and respond in a sensitive, reassuring tone.

3.) Stick to the Facts: Parents and educators need to stick to the facts. Children absorb information from their surrounding sources. Friends, family and the media will all impact what each individual child thinks and feels about September 11th. Keep things simple and succinct. For example:

“On 9/11, people who didn’t like America wanted to hurt and scare us. They crashed four planes. Two of them struck two very large buildings in New York City called the World Trade Center. Another plane destroyed part of the Pentagon, the US military headquarters, in Arlington, Virginia. The fourth plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Many people died and it is a very sad day for people all over the world.” 

Many kids will ask how the planes were hijacked. Adults should answer by explaining the hijackers “tricked people” and utilize this opportunity to explain that since the attacks have occurred new rules have been made ensure flight safety.

4) Emphasize Safety & Security: As adults in children’s lives, it’s our job to promote a sense of safety and security. Whatever words teachers or parents choose to use to explain the story of 9/11, end it with the message that they don’t need to worry. Parents should also emphasize their role as protectors to help children understand the safety they feel in their home environment is uncompromised.

5.) Limit the use of all Media: Developmentally, children under the age of 8 should have limited to no exposure to 9/11 television coverage or media images. Middle school children can be exposed to 9/11 media coverage, preferably with adult supervision, so parents or teachers should monitor and discuss what is being viewed. High school aged children have the mental capacity to understand the severity of the attacks and it’s political, social and historical ramifications. Some images may still be too graphic for this age group, monitoring remains necessary.

6.) Know Yourself & Respect Your Limits: Nobody expects a parent or a teacher to act as a licensed mental health professional. It’s perfectly okay to not have the answer to every question a child may have about 9/11. If you can’t answer something factually, then utilize the opportunity to search for the answer with the child together. If the topic of 9/11 becomes personally too intense for you to discuss it further or if a child exhibits an overly emotional reaction to what is being discussed, call in a professional.

7.) Emphasize Patriotism & Community Service: 9/11 showed us that immense cruelty exists in this world, but in one of America’s darkest moments, we also saw unforgettable acts of compassion and heroism. The bravery and sacrifice of policemen, fireman, and first responders should all be discussed with children. Teachers and parents should also emphasize how perfect strangers, communities and the country as a whole came together in the aftermath of the attacks. Encourage kids to take on a community service activity, visit a local firehouse or police precinct, or perform a random act of kindness on this year’s anniversary to honor those whose lives were lost.

8.) Don’t Be An Ostrich: When an ostrich gets frightened, it buries its head in the sand. Pretending that the anniversary of 9/11 is just another day is wrong. Not only does it show our children that we are unable or unwilling to broach a difficult subject matter, but it forces them to look for answers elsewhere. It also diminishes the legacy of those we lost on that fateful day fifteen years ago. We, as adults, owe it to our children to provide them with the best explanation we can so that the significance of September 11th lives on within them.

This article originally appeared on Blind Motherhood

Holly Bonner

Holly Bonner is a Staten Island based psychotherapist and Director of Education & Outreach for IlluminArt Productions. A wife and mother of two daughters, Holly became legally blind in 2012 after battling breast cancer. She navigates motherhood relying on help from modern technology, a white cane, and her sixth sense provided by eyes in the back of her head! Her website, http://blindmotherhood.com/, chronicles her adventures in parenting and provides useful information for all mommies. Holly lives by the mantra that even without vision, you should never lose sight of life, love and laughter.

Memories Fill the Holes in Their Hearts Where a Grandpa’s Love Should Be

In: Grief
Drawing, journal, and photo of man, color photo

“Girls, come here for a minute.” In some sort of yearly ritual, I guide my oldest two daughters to my bedroom, where a wooden chest sits. It’s painted in flowers of muted colors and has a brass keyhole on it, making it look like an antique. It isn’t. It’s only 20 years old. As my girls follow me into my room, I grab the skeleton key off my dresser that unlocks the wooden chest. I turn the key and open the wooden box that holds so many pieces that are supposed to remind me of my dad.  Pictures of him....

Keep Reading

The Calls Stopped When the Casket Closed

In: Grief
Father and toddler walking in cemetery, color photo

The night my mother died is raw. It was filled with a lot of emotions: anger, regret, sadness, guilt, and remorse. The next day, I woke up to multiple calls, text messages, posts on my Facebook wall, and Facebook messages. It was a flood. The flood soon turned into a drought. Before I could process what happened the night before, people were sending flowers, the funeral home was calling, and people were showing up at my door. The next two days there was an influx of people in and out of my house and a lot of food. But the...

Keep Reading

Losing a Child Changes Everything

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Woman at beach sunset

I‘ve had my life planned out since I was a teenager. My dreams were to be a teacher, wife, and mom in that order. I would teach elementary school and have the cutest classroom with the greatest lessons, and I’d teach until I was old and retired. The man of my dreams would sweep me off my feet in college, and we’d have a romantic wedding and start our great life together. Then, after a few years, we would have two children, a boy and a girl. We would be a blissfully boring, happy little family.  I didn’t want extravagant...

Keep Reading

A Mother’s Love Lasts Forever

In: Grief, Grown Children, Motherhood
Silhouette mother and daughter

She was so pretty. So pretty it was hard to look away from that porcelain skin, those high cheekbones, stunning green eyes with just the right amount of sparkle and depth, and shiny black hair. And those lips, perfectly plump with neatly applied lipstick, always ready to give a kiss on the cheek or a knowing smile. More than pretty, she was beautiful—you know, beautiful inside and out. She was classy. Not fancy or prim and proper, not snobby—just classy. A certain air about her that made you notice and appreciate her presence when she walked into the room. She...

Keep Reading

Thumbprint Glasses and a Lifetime of Love

In: Grief, Motherhood
Broken thumbprint glass on floor, color photo

Yesterday my Nannie’s glass was shattered, intentionally thrown across the room by a child of mine. My heart shattered with it for that glass held memories. When we visited my Nannie in Florida, I would wake with the sun to the aroma of fresh eggs, bacon, and grits. I would stumble into her bright yellow kitchen. The counters always cluttered, the small white table nicely set, and the glasses full of orange juice. “Thumbprint glasses,” I called them. I would put my tiny thumb into the imprint of each beautiful dent and admire the rainbows the iridescent glass made. That...

Keep Reading

Some Babies Are Held Only in a Mother’s Heart

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Ultrasound of baby

“Whatever may come and whatever may pass, we have faith that our God will bring us to it and through it.” That’s what I wrote in a post after we announced our third pregnancy. It was the first pregnancy we went public with, but it was the third time we had two positive lines on a pregnancy test. You see, we had miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage. We went from surprised optimism to guarded yearning and finally stolen joy. The first baby was nothing more than a what-if before that test. It was a surprise to two people who loved...

Keep Reading

My Birthday Will Never Be the Same without My Mother

In: Grief
Mother and two daughters, older color photo

It’s been eight months since my mom took her last breath on earth and entered into her eternal resting place. Eight, long, motherless months. I expected holidays to be hard, as they should, because a piece of the family is missing. The spot where they once sat, ate, laughed, took pictures, and made memories is now empty. Just like a piece of my heart is empty. RELATED: I Didn’t Just Lose My Mom the Day She Died The holiday no one prepared me for was my birthday. A day that’s to be celebrated. It’s the day I took my first...

Keep Reading

Dear Mom, I Miss You

In: Faith, Grief
Grown woman and her mother, color photo

Dear Mom, Yesterday I went over to your house. I was hoping you would open the door, but Daddy greeted me with his sweet smile. Yes, he still has a mustache. The one you hate, but I did manage to trim it up for him. I cut his hair too.   We talked about you over coffee and waited for you to join us, but you never did. He’s doing his best to do this life without you in it, but his eyes are clouded with memories and mixed with pain. He misses you, Momma. RELATED: I Didn’t Just Lose...

Keep Reading

Mom, You Were There for All My Firsts…Except This One

In: Grief
Sad woman looking out window

Firsts are monumental. Inaugural. Annual. They say you always remember the milestones, the annuals, the inaugurals.  You were there for those firsts during my first few years of life: my first tooth, first steps, first boo-boo. Always supporting me. Always cheering me on. When I grew up, you stood by me for the next wave of firsts: my first bad grade, my first heartbreak, the first fight with friends, my first solo in choir, my first stitches.  You stayed by my side during the pain from your divorce and dried my tears when Dad moved out. You even loved me...

Keep Reading

I Wanted to Call You Last Night, Dad

In: Grief, Grown Children
Woman sitting on dock alone by lake

I went to call you last night. I was sitting in my room, watching grown men play a child’s game. Alone. And when the last out was registered, in an improbable no-hitter, I needed to share my delight. I wanted to call you. But I couldn’t. Since you left, a mere 18 months ago, there have been many moments, when I have wanted to call. To say, hello, to ask for advice, to share good news, and bad. To discuss world events or shoot the breeze. To hear your corny jokes and lift your spirits. Or have you lift mine....

Keep Reading

5 Secrets to the

BEST Summer Ever!

FREE EMAIL BONUS

Creating simple summer memories

with your kids that will  last a lifetime