Too much 9/11 coverage?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  September 15, 2011 06:00 AM

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My daughter is 12, so she was too young to understand when 9/11 happened. But she seems preoccupied with it now. As a family( two other, children, 14 & 17), we watched some of the coverage Sunday. we were all kind of glued to it for a while, but then left the room. She ended up watching by herself for more than an hour, I think, because it was at least that long before I went back in to find her still watching. It was the channel where relatives were reading the names of victims. Many of these readers were children, some of them her age.

Today is Monday. She didn't sleep well last night, came to my side of the bed at some point. (I let her stay.) I'm worried about her and worried that I made a huge mistake not to monitor her viewing better. We've had several conversations. Now what?

From: BadMom? Cleveland

Dear BadMom?

Don't be too hard on yourself. Yes, I agree, it's too bad she watched by herself but you know what, the coverage has been wall to wall, 24/7, and probably included conversations in school (worth finding out, btw). There was no avoiding it. The best thing you can do is be open and available to talk about any of this at any she wants. Give her some openings so she knows you are available: "Were you thinking about 9/11 again today?" You don't want to over-do it, but you want to make the effort.

Bad dreams are possible, especially if she saw footage of the Towers coming down and especially if you or dad work in a tall building. Talk about how strong they are building skyscrapers now, and about the security where you work. She may also be relating to those kids who read the names of their parents. That was very moving for us as adults, and I was wondering as I watched what it might be like for a child that age. Reassure her as best you can -- but not falsely -- if her concern is about your safety.

Most of all, remember that it's as if this event is unfolding for her for the first time and, as a 12-year-old, she's able to take in a lot. Don't be afraid of the conversation as long as you follow her lead. I would also include the older kids in the conversations. I bet they can be very helpful to her.

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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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