I am sorry that I missed posting on this when it first came out. One decade after the September 11, 2001 disaster, we have a generation of children who were alive during a terrible event and do not know what happened. These youth may not have been exposed directly or they may have been. Many — certainly not all — were protected from the events and the resulting fear, helplessness, anger, and profound sadness of the events. Many were too young to form a memory of the events with words.
These children are growing up. They are becoming aware of the world around them. They are in adolescense or heading toward it. They want to know. For many of those children, it is past the point that we can help them by sheilding them. We can help them by listening and answering the questions as they ask them. They want to form their own understanding which will come at an emotional price. We can help those children with the difficult task of coping with their feelings and understanding themselves in the world. Validating a child’s feelings is an very powerful tool to help with coping with traumatic events.
There is not one answer. Every child has a different experience of these events. In the Boston area, there are children who have direct and indirect connections to the victims. They may have a very different task than children who do not know anyone hurt by the events directly. There are children everywhere whose parents are gone for long periods serving in the wars that continue. There are children who do not know anything about it. There are children suffering much more immediate trauma like tornadoes and hurricanes. Every child also has a different set of skills for coping with their feelings and thoughts about terrible events.
All of us play a role in forming our national understanding and supporting our healing. The American Psychological Association has gather a number of materials to help individuals and families to respond to the tenth anniversary of the disaster. These materials offer information in a variety of formats for many different people. They have partnered with Nickelodeon to present a “What Happened on Sept. 11?” Kids News Hour that you can get off of the internet at: http://www.nick.com/videos/clip/nick-news-what-happened-the-true-story-of-september-11th-full-episode.html. There are also guidelines for discussing the show with kids.
These materials were written by Robin H. Gurwitch, PhD. She was a mentor of mine and has an international reputation as a researcher, clinician, and advocate. She was in Oklahoma City in April 1995 and has both clinical and research experience providing for the families effected by the Oklahoma City bombing.
There are addition materials at the APA site. For example, there are links that takes readers to pages on kids resilience in the face multiple challenges. It is pretty interesting.