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Talking About 9/11 and Other Tough Stuff

The Tribute in Light was visible from the living room window (that’s the view from our roof in the photo), so I guess it was inevitable my 5-year-old daughter would notice the pretty lights and ask questions, and it would be up to us to explain the unexplainable.

However, in the rush of the first week of school, I hadn’t even thought about if I would address what happened on 9/11, much less how. And then five minutes after kicking her dad’s butt on the Wii, with friends over for dinner (nothing like deer-in-headlights parenting with an audience) the questions started coming. Where had the towers gone? How did they fall? Were people in the towers when they fell? Did those people “get dead?” Did I know anyone in the towers? Why would someone knock them down?

Fortunately, I had written about this topic, so I wasn’t completely clueless. I let her guide the discussion, encouraging her to ask questions. I tried not to tell her more than she was asking. My friend, a teacher, emphasized how people came together to help each other. And I told her that she shouldn’t worry because this would never ever happen to her or us. That last part is, of course, something I cannot guarantee, but I have a hard time wrapping my head around that slight but horrific possibility as a 35-year-old, so I hardly think a kindergartener can handle it. I don't know if I dealt with it in the best way, and sure wish I didn't have to deal with it at all. Fortunately, she lost her first tooth that same night, so I think she went to bed with visions of the Tooth Fairy rather than nightmares of planes flying into buildings.

Did you talk with your kids about 9/11? What did you say?

More:

Read Denene Millner’s moving essay on 9/11 and tolerance

How to answer even more tough questions, from sex to swear words to what happens when you die

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