“I think 9/11 is when someone dropped a bunch of bombs on New York.”
“I think it’s when we attacked Iran.”
“I think it was…I don’t know.”
Those are real quotes from a sixth-grade class where I taught Eleven this year.
Their confusion is understandable, because many parents and teachers aren’t sure how to even start a conversation on such an emotional subject.
This morning, my publicist sent out my first press release: 8 Tips on How to Talk to Your Kids about 9-11. Here it is, in its entirety.
I’d love to hear how you learned (or talked to your kids) about 9/11! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on our Facebook page.
(A press kit and this release are available on the Eleven Press page.)
And as always, if you like this post, please repost/retweet/share! Thanks!
WHAT’S THE FIRST STEP IN EXPLAINING 9/11 TO A CHILD TOO YOUNG TO REMEMBER? JUST TALK, SAYS TOM ROGERS, AUTHOR OF ELEVEN
Take Your Time, Listen, and Remember that Today’s Kids Didn’t Experience 9/11 the Same Way You Did – So They Might Not React the Same Way Either
New York (July 30, 2014) – It’s hard to imagine, but some kids in middle school today aren’t even sure what really happened on 9/11. Kids as old as thirteen weren’t even born yet, so their confusion is understandable.
As the next anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches – the first one since the opening of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which is garnering visitors from around the world – how should adults talk to children about what happened on that day? The first and most important tip on how to talk to kids about 9/11 is simple – just start talking.
Tom Rogers, author of young adult novel Eleven, which tells the story of a boy who turns eleven on 9/11, has assembled a list of guidelines for adults struggling to explain the events of 9/11 to the kids in their lives.
He advises adults to…
- Just start talking. Is it a tough subject? Sure. But if you don’t teach them, they’ll hear about it from someone else, and there are a lot of strange theories and misinformed individuals out there. “Children should learn about that difficult time in a place where they feel safe – with you,” he says.
- Take your time. Stop frequently to let the children respond, and be attuned to their cues. “When they’ve heard enough, don’t push; when they’re ready to learn more, they’ll let you know,” Rogers advises.
- Keep it simple. “You don’t have to cover all 567 pages of the 9/11 Commission Report in one sitting,” says Rogers. Keep it brief at first, just touching on the main events in broad strokes. Be patient and go slowly.
- Remember the day’s heroes. “The horrors of that day speak for themselves. You can give voice to the hope that rose from the ashes. Talk about how the worst of times brought out the best in so many of us.”
- Use resources. There are a number of trustworthy places that specifically exist to introduce 9/11 to kids. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum has an excellent Teach+Learn section. Adults and children might also want to watch the 22-minute Nick News special, “What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001.”
- Don’t let crackpot theories go unchallenged. He recommends visiting Popular Mechanics’ fact-checked, detailed online page devoted to debunking 9/11 myths, and advises adults to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers about what happened and why.
- Be aware of your own emotions. It is a difficult subject, and talking about it can suddenly bring up long-buried feelings. Practice once or twice, so you’re not caught off-guard by your own reaction. “There’s no need to be cold or unemotional; if you well up, let your kids know why: that you’re just sad, and that’s okay,” Rogers says.
- Don’t be surprised by children’s reactions. Did you cry when you first heard about Pearl Harbor? Probably not. It wasn’t a personal memory; it was history. The attacks of 9/11 were something adults lived, but it’s only history to a kid. Children may be upset when they learn more about 9/11, or they may just shrug it off. Both responses are valid. The important thing is that they begin the journey toward knowledge and understanding.
“As another anniversary approaches, and your children continue to hear about it from their peers and on TV, they may come to you with questions, unsure about what really happened,” added Rogers. “This is your chance to help them understand.”
For more information about Eleven, please visit the website here. To schedule a conversation with Tom Rogers, please contact Eric Mosher of Sommerfield Communications at (212) 255-8386 or Eric@Sommerfield.com.
About Tom Rogers
Tom Rogers is a novelist and the screenwriter of numerous animated films, including The Lion King 1½, Kronk’s New Groove, LEGO: The Adventures of Clutch Powers, and Disney’s Secret of the Wings. Eleven, the journey of a boy who turns eleven on September 11th, 2001, is his first novel for young adults.