David J. Schonfeld, director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, who also served on the National Commission on Children and Disasters, has worked extensively with schools on crisis response and grief support, including on how to react to the World Trade Center attacks. He shared with me his thoughts on communicating with children on the 9/11 anniversary and also offered a few concrete tips for parents.
“Anniversaries, especially when associated with media coverage, often resurface feelings related to a difficult event such as 9/11. Parents and friends can offer support by helping children anticipate this reaction, advise them on how to limit or handle grief triggers (which might include limiting exposure to media coverage of the event) and offering additional physical presence and emotional support around the time of the anniversary,” he said.
“Adults also need to realize that children may have very different fears and concerns than adults — one cannot really address someone else’s concerns unless they know what they are, so initiating a discussion and listening to children’s unique concerns and needs is critical to provide appropriate support.”