Helping children through 9/11 anniversaries
The 10-year anniversary of the attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, is on the horizon. Many of us who were fortunate enough not to be directly involved in the events or losses were nevertheless shaken and even mildly traumatized by those events. Anniversaries have a way of re-evoking the feelings associated with the original event – we call that re-living an “anniversary reaction.”
Parents experiencing an anniversary reaction are more likely to be talking about the events of September 11 or paying attention to the media coverage of the rememberances. This period of re-focusing can be a constructive way of dealing with lingering emotions for adults.
Nevertheless, parents should be aware that their needs and their children’s needs are very different. Children do not benefit from learning about the specifics of September 11. Children benefit from learning about the troubles of the world to the extent that they are not excessively frightening. The events of September 11 are beyond the ability of a young child to understand and reach some comfort or confidence about.
Teenagers are ready to confront the uglier aspects of the world, but younger children – particularly those seven and younger – need protection against realities that are excessively frightening.
So parents, be especially careful at this point in time when you are liable to caught up in your own memories. We will be posting other suggestions for parents about the upcoming anniversary in the upcoming weeks.
Mental Health Matters! is posted on the Carolina Parent Magazine's website, the Triangle's family resource - in print for over 21 years! And online at www.carolinaparent.com.