How to Explain 9/11 to a Child: Age-Appropriate Conversations

  • By: admin
  • Date: August 27, 2023
  • Time to read: 9 min.

September 11th, 2001, is a significant moment in history that changed the world forever. As a parent or caregiver, it can be challenging to know how to approach the topic with a child. Explaining the events of 9/11 in an age-appropriate way can help them gain a better understanding of the world around them and process their emotions.

It’s important to remember that every child is different and may have different levels of understanding and emotional maturity. This guide will provide you with the tools and strategies to have meaningful conversations about 9/11 with your child.

Key Takeaways:

  • Explaining the events of 9/11 to a child can help them gain a better understanding of the world around them.
  • Age-appropriate conversations and tailored information are necessary for effective communication.
  • Creating a safe and supportive environment can help address fears and anxieties.
  • Using simple language and avoiding graphic details can help children process the information.
  • Encouraging questions and validating emotions can help promote understanding and support.
  • Resources such as books, videos, and museums can provide additional support and understanding.

Understanding the Basics: What Happened on 9/11

Explaining the events of September 11th to a child can be a challenging task. However, it is important to provide them with an accurate and age-appropriate understanding of what happened that day. Here are some key aspects to focus on when discussing 9/11 with a child:

What happened on 9/11 What to say to a child
The World Trade Center was attacked by airplanes. Some bad people flew airplanes into two tall buildings in New York City called the Twin Towers. They hurt a lot of people and caused the buildings to fall down.
The Pentagon was attacked by an airplane. A bad person flew an airplane into a building in Washington, D.C. called the Pentagon. This caused a lot of damage and hurt many people.
United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. A group of brave passengers on an airplane tried to stop some bad people from hurting more people. The airplane crashed in a field and all the people on board died.

It is important to emphasize that these attacks were carried out by a small group of people who did not represent any particular religion or country. It is also important to avoid blaming or demonizing any particular group of people, and instead focus on the heroic actions of the first responders and everyday people who helped in the aftermath of the attacks.

“The attacks on 9/11 were a sad and scary time for our country, but we came together to help each other and show that we are strong.”

Discussing September 11th with a child

Creating a Safe Space: Addressing Fear and Anxiety

When discussing the events of 9/11 with a child, it’s crucial to create a safe and supportive environment. Talking about such a traumatic event can bring up fear and anxiety, especially in young children who may not fully understand what happened.

First, ensure that you are in a calm and quiet setting where you and your child can have an uninterrupted conversation. Let your child know that they can ask questions and that you are there to offer support and reassurance. This will show them that their feelings are valid and that they are not alone.

It’s also important to gauge your child’s emotional state and respond accordingly. If your child seems scared or anxious, validate their feelings and offer reassurance. You might say something like, “I can understand why you might feel scared. But please know that you are safe and I am here to protect you.”

Encourage your child to express their emotions and be present with them as they process their feelings. Avoid dismissing their fears or telling them not to worry, as this can make them feel unheard and unsupported.

Remember, creating a safe space is key to having an open and honest conversation with your child about the events of 9/11. When your child feels safe, they will be more likely to listen and engage in the conversation.

talking to child about 9 11

Tailoring the Conversation: Age-Appropriate Information

When discussing 9/11 with a child, it’s essential to tailor the conversation to their age and maturity level. Younger children may not have the emotional capacity to handle complex information and may become overwhelmed. Conversely, older children may require more detailed explanations to understand the gravity of the situation fully.

Start by asking your child what they already know about 9/11. This will help you understand what aspects of the event they may already be familiar with and which areas require further explanation. Use this opportunity to correct any misconceptions they may have and provide clear, factual information.

To determine how much information to share, consider your child’s developmental level. For example, preschoolers may benefit from a brief, simple explanation, while older children may be able to handle more detailed discussions.

When discussing sensitive topics like terrorism and tragedy, it’s important to be mindful of your language and avoid using graphic details. Instead, use simple and straightforward language to convey information while avoiding any unnecessary distress.

Remember, every child is different, so be prepared to adapt your approach based on your child’s reactions and questions. By tailoring the conversation to their age and needs, you can help them understand 9/11 in a way that feels safe and approachable.

age-appropriate explanation of September 11th

Using Simple Language: Avoiding Graphic Details

When explaining 9/11 to a child, it’s essential to use simple language that they can understand. Avoid using complex terms and jargon that may confuse or overwhelm them. Stick to the basics and use everyday language that they are familiar with.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid graphic details when discussing the events of 9/11 with children. They may not be emotionally ready to handle the harsh realities of such a tragic event. Instead, focus on the positive aspects, such as the bravery of first responders and community members who came together to help one another.

When discussing terrorism, be careful not to generalize or stereotype any group of people. Emphasize that these were the actions of a small group of extremists and not representative of any particular religion or culture.

explaining 9 11 to children

Remember: Keep the language simple and avoid graphic details when discussing 9/11 with children. Emphasize the positive and be careful not to generalize or stereotype any group of people.

Encouraging Questions: Listening and Validating Emotions

It’s important to create a safe space for your child when discussing the events of 9/11, and part of that involves encouraging them to ask questions. Let your child know that it’s okay to ask anything they may be curious about, and that you’re there to help them understand. When your child does ask questions, listen attentively and validate their emotions.

If your child expresses fear or anxiety, acknowledge their feelings and offer reassurance. For example, you might say, “It’s normal to feel scared when we talk about something like this, but I want you to know that you’re safe and that I’m here to protect you.”

Encourage your child to express their emotions in whatever way feels comfortable for them. This might mean drawing pictures, writing in a journal, or simply talking things through with you. Let your child know that their feelings are important and that you’re there to support them.

how to explain 9 11 to a child

In some cases, your child may have a difficult time expressing their emotions, and that’s okay too. Consider seeking the help of a counselor or therapist who specializes in working with children. They can help your child process their emotions and provide valuable support during this challenging time.

Honoring and Remembering: Teaching Resilience and Unity

One of the most important aspects of discussing September 11th with a child is honoring and remembering the victims and heroes of that day. By doing so, you can help them understand the significance of the event and the importance of resilience and unity in times of tragedy.

There are many ways to approach this topic with your child, depending on their age and level of understanding. One idea is to visit a local memorial or museum that pays tribute to the victims of 9/11. This can provide a powerful learning experience while also offering a tangible way to pay your respects.

Another idea is to engage your child in acts of remembrance and community service. For example, you might volunteer at a local food bank or participate in a charity walk to raise funds for those affected by the attacks. These activities can help your child develop a sense of empathy and compassion while also building resilience in the face of tragedy.

Finally, you can encourage your child to express their emotions in healthy ways, such as through writing, drawing, or talking with a trusted adult. By providing them with a safe and supportive environment, you can help them process their thoughts and feelings about 9/11 and promote unity and resilience in the process.

Honoring and Remembering

Resources for Further Understanding: Books, Videos, and Museums

If your child is interested in learning more about 9/11, there are many age-appropriate resources available to help deepen their understanding. Here are some suggestions:


Title Author Age Range
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey Maira Kalman 4-8 years old
Seven and a Half Tons of Steel Janet Nolan 4-8 years old
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Mordicai Gerstein 4-8 years old
Eleven Tom Rogers 8-12 years old
Ground Zero Alan Gratz 8-12 years old
Towers Falling Jewell Parker Rhodes 8-12 years old


There are many documentaries and videos available about 9/11, but it’s important to preview them before showing them to your child to ensure they are appropriate for their age and maturity level. Here are some suggestions:

  • What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001 (PBS Kids)
  • 9/11: Escape from the Towers (History Channel)
  • 102 Minutes That Changed America (History Channel)

9/11 Memorial Museum


Visiting a museum or memorial can be a powerful way for your child to learn about 9/11 and pay tribute to the victims and heroes. Here are some options:

  • National September 11 Memorial and Museum (New York, NY)
  • Pentagon Memorial (Washington, D.C.)
  • Flight 93 National Memorial (Stonycreek Township, PA)

These resources can provide a starting point for further exploration and discussion about the events of 9/11. By continuing to foster your child’s curiosity and understanding, you can help them develop empathy, resilience, and a deeper appreciation for the bravery and sacrifice of others.


Explaining September 11th to a child can be a difficult and emotional conversation, but it’s important to approach it with care and sensitivity. By tailoring the conversation to the child’s age and maturity level, creating a safe and supportive environment, and using age-appropriate language, you can help them understand what happened without overwhelming them. Remember to encourage questions, listen actively, and validate their emotions throughout the conversation.

It’s also important to honor and remember the victims and heroes of 9/11, and there are many resources available to help children develop a deeper understanding of the events. Consider exploring age-appropriate books, videos, and museums to continue the conversation and promote resilience and unity in the face of tragedy.

Thank you for taking the time to learn how to explain 9/11 to a child. With patience and care, you can help them navigate this moment in history and develop a greater sense of understanding and empathy.


Q: How do I explain 9/11 to a child?
A: Explaining 9/11 to a child can be difficult, but it’s important to have age-appropriate conversations. Start by providing a simple and factual explanation of the events, focusing on key aspects that are suitable for their understanding.

Q: What happened on 9/11?
A: On September 11, 2001, there were attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. United Flight 93 was also hijacked, but the passengers bravely fought back, preventing further destruction.

Q: How can I address my child’s fears and anxieties?
A: It’s crucial to create a safe and supportive environment. Validate their feelings, reassure them that they are safe, and address any fears or anxieties that may arise during the conversation.

Q: How do I adjust the conversation based on my child’s age?
A: Tailor the information shared to your child’s age and maturity level. Use language they can understand and adjust the level of detail to their understanding and emotional capacity.

Q: Should I avoid discussing graphic details with my child?
A: Yes, it’s important to use simple language and avoid overwhelming your child with graphic details. Focus on providing age-appropriate information and simplifying complex concepts.

Q: How can I encourage questions from my child?
A: Encourage your child to ask questions and actively listen to their concerns. Validate their emotions and offer support as they process the information about 9/11.

Q: How can I teach resilience and unity to my child?
A: Honor and remember the victims and heroes of 9/11. Engage your child in acts of remembrance, foster resilience, and promote unity in the face of tragedy.

Q: Are there any resources that can help my child understand 9/11 better?
A: Yes, there are several resources available. Consider age-appropriate books, videos, and visits to museums or memorials that can provide a deeper understanding of 9/11.

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