So, what did you tell your young children about the WTC/DC attacks?

My daughter is 5 and in 1st grade. She had heard bits about what happened from other kids and the news, but really had no clue on the importance of it.
She started talking and asking questions, so we told her that villians (which she understands as “bad guys”) had stolen some planes and crashed them, and people got hurt and died. She understands that something bad happened and continues to ask questions about planes, tall buildings we pass and how will we catch the villians.
I know some other dopers have kids in this age group. How have you handled this?

My kids are 12, 9, 6 and 3.

I sat the older three down as they came home from school on Tuesday and explained in broad terms what had happened, much in the same way you did. I explained the concept of “terrorist” as someone who wants to change things in the world and believes that he can force those changes through violence.

My 9yo’s reaction was to try to figure out ways to make high rise buildings safer. (He also came up with the parachute idea that was discussed in another thread.) One of my 6yo’s friends lost her mother (she was on one of the planes that came out of Boston) so she has spent quite some time talking about how sad she feels for her friend. I don’t think that kids this age can really comprehend the bigger picture, so while I have answered their questions as best I can, I haven’t tried to get them to understand all that is going on. My oldest seems to be somewhat overwhelmed. I think that because she does have more of an understanding, it worries her more. She has avoided the issue as much as possible. I have made it clear that I am available to talk about it, but I think that she is protecting herself.

One thing we have done is to refuse to watch television coverage. I have had NPR on, and they listen, but I think that the images are too frightening for children. I think that this will be an ongoing process for quite some time. Questions will probably come up again when my husband has to travel on business, which he will be doing a lot of in the near future.

my two just turned 5 and are still in preschool.

i live in an air force town; they go to school with kids whose parents serve in the air force. i had to say something as i knew they would hear about it at school the next day.

i worried over exactly what i was going to say all afternoon, and, well, it actually turned out to be a non-event, so far.

i decided to do it in two different concepts. first, the fact of the matter and the size of it, secondly, the general idea that it was done on purpose.

i got them home, settled them down a bit, then told them i had something to talk about with them. i told them that there had been a very bad accident in new york (i had been there on business earlier this year so “new york” as a concept of a big city far away that you have to fly to was already in place). i told them that airplanes had flown into two very big buildings in new york, that the buildings had caught on fire and collapsed, and that lots and lots of people were hurt very badly. i turned on cnn, categorized the video for them (for every show on tv they watch with me i identify it as “new” or “old” and as “real” or “pretend”), and showed them pictures of the airplane hitting the building, the fire, the collapse, and the fire trucks lined up with people running around then i turned it back off. i went over the airplanes/building/hurt badly/some dead thing again, that the firemen where there to help and were helping lots of people, but that a lot of them had been badly hurt trying to help, and told them that all this had people all over the country very very sad and upset and that they were likely to hear people talking about it at school again.

i got a few predicatable questions (is it going to happen here? is anyone we know hurt? did airplanes run into anyplace we go?)and a long list of specific questions asking if individual places or people were ok. then, well, they seemed to totally lose interest.

the topic of conversation shifted to both of them wanting me to take them with me on the airplane to new york next time so they could see all the buildings! it turns out that they were much more interested in the buildings still standing than in the ones that were on fire and falling…

i was so disconcerted that i punted on even trying to discuss the concept that it was not an accident. i had thought of many ways they might react, but having both tugging on me saying “please, please, please” to fly with me to new york next time was not one of them.

plan b is to wait until the next major dustup/military event, and start off with “do you remember when those planes flew into the tall buildings in new york and all the people were hurt and some were killed? well, we found out that some bad men did it on purpose, and…”.


they just shouldn’t issue these kids things out to amateurs without a proper manual, damn it!

every time i have one of these parenting adventures i wonder how many weeks of therapy this particular parenting blunder is going to cost them each eventually…


My daughter is pretty hard to stress, but at a precotious almost-four years, she’s fairly clued-in.

We told her some very angry, very bad people had hurt a lot of other people. We were extremely careful to leave religion and politics out of the conversation. She said that the bad people should be put in time out, and went back to play.

Too bad that it’s not that simple for the rest of us.