For young school-age children who are aware that something bad has happened, adults can speak in simple language about good people outnumbering bad people – and how much the police and other officials are “working 24 hours a day ... trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” suggests Donna Gaffney, executive director of the For Action Initiative, which sprang up to offer free age-appropriate lesson plans in the years following the 9/11 attacks.
A 9/11 widow helped create the lesson plans after her own children had a middle-school teacher who pointed out one page in a textbook about the attacks when the anniversary rolled around, but seemed too uncomfortable to talk about it with her students, Ms. Gaffney says.
For older children and teens, “ask them what they are worried about,” and rather than try to talk them out of negative feelings such as sadness or fear, talk through “how you manage them, how you cope,” says David Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.
Older kids may ask “more sophisticated questions and want to know your take on things," Beresin says. "You can even watch the news with older teens and say, ‘What do you make of this?’ ” Kids may be nervous about attending a sporting event, or they may hear that bags are being searched at certain locations and assume that means a threat is there, and adults can help calm such fears once they’ve heard what’s really on their minds, he says.