As the 10 th anniversary of 9/11 draws closer, media coverage is kicking into high gear. Even if you do your best to shield your child from the disturbing images of the planes crashing into the twin towers, chances are your child will catch a glimpse of the news footage or hear about the attacks at school or from other adults. So how do you talk to your kids about what they may see or hear?
Limit access to the news
It's tough to completely insulate your child from coverage of major news events like the 9-11 retrospectives (or the recent fears over Hurricane Irene). Try your best to limit what your child sees when you're not around, and be available to talk if your family chooses to watch any anniversary coverage. Don't forget about newspapers with disturbing photos that may be lying around the house or what's on the radio - kids pick up on what we're reading and listening to more than we think they do.
Focus on safety
Emphasize that there are people working hard to keep us all safe. Let your child know that his teachers and other important adults in his life will protect him if something scary happens. And assure him that the kind of violence we saw on 9-11 is not normal and has not been repeated.
Ask your child how he feels
This seems like a no-brainer, but as a parent you can get so caught up in wanting to meet your child's needs that you don't stop to find out what those needs are. If your child seems upset by something he saw on the news and is old enough to talk, ask if what he saw upset him. Then probe deeper and try to find out what his biggest fear is so you can address it directly. If talking is difficult, get down and play with your child. Set up a situation in which he can scare you (he's a bear and you're a child in the woods, for instance). Role-playing gives your child a chance to work out his fears in a safe environment.
Manage your own feelings
Make sure you have someone you can talk to about the events of 9-11 and any feelings it stirs up in you. If you're very anxious, you can't reassure your children about their fears. Talk with a partner, a friend, or a professional if you're having trouble coping with media coverage of the events.