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How to explain 9/11 to a 3.5 yo?

(59 Posts)
93pjb Wed 07-Sep-11 13:23:53

My dd likes to look through the paper at breakfast and talk about the pictures usually she prefers animal stories but there is so much about 9/11 currently that she wants to know what is happening in the pictures. I am struggling to find a way of giving her some idea of what happened that doesn't frighten her. Any suggestions?

niceguy2 Wed 07-Sep-11 13:25:47

Just say a plane crashed accidentally into a building and would you like to watch Cbeebies.

At 3.5yrs old, there's really no need to go into details of who al queda are.

JeremyVile Wed 07-Sep-11 13:28:47

Why niceguy said.

In fact, I think I would leave out the aeroplane part as there are no pictures of that are there? I'd just say there was a big fire in a famous building.

GreatNorksOfFire Wed 07-Sep-11 13:30:15

I agree with niceguy.

I have a 4 year old. There's no way I would even start to explain the atrocities of 9/11 to her. She asks me where she came from, how she was made. I explain in simple but honest terms. Explaining that - for whatever reasons - some people decided to fly planes into buildings is something I wouldn't even begin to explain. <boggles at the number of 'whys' I would have to try and answer>

Distraction, distraction, distraction.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 07-Sep-11 14:14:47

I think if a child is old enough to ask a question, they're old enough to get a reasonable answer. 'Bad men crashed planes into buildings because they were angry and it was very sad because a lot of people died.'... follow up with something reassuring about how it was a very long time ago and in a far away country. You don't want to scare them.

pinkytheshrinky Wed 07-Sep-11 14:21:00

Why dwell on it? There was a fire in a tall building, biscuit darling?

There is absolutely no reason in the world why anyone would or should try to explain this to a tiny child like that - it is a very complex thing to explain, very sad and I would not encourage delving into something like that with such a little one.

Distract - it is easy enough

93pjb Wed 07-Sep-11 14:56:17

Thanks for the comments - I like your suggestion cogito. She isn't asking out of idle curiosity but a real desire to know which seems to me to be all part of making sense of the world. She won't accept distraction easily so I'm trying to find a simple way of answering the question that is honest and suitable for her age. "explaining" is probably the wrong word. I don't plan to dwell on it but fobbing her off makes her all the more insistent and makes it a much bigger deal.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 07-Sep-11 15:31:11

Children that age have no trouble whatsoever with gruesome stories about wicked stepmothers, big bad wolves and so on. 9/11 was such an extraordinary event that if someone had outlined the main points to you before they happened you'd have thought they were telling you the plot of the next Hollywood disaster movie.... and that it was all rather far-fetched. So for a 3 year-old for whom the Snow White story is quite credible, it's not such a big leap...

GenevieveHawkings Sun 11-Sep-11 21:40:59

Why on earth would you need to fill the head of a child of this age with 9/11? Distract and move on to the next topic.

What will you be discussing with him/her next? The banking crisis and the global economy?

FairyMum Sun 11-Sep-11 21:50:11

I would not let such a young child read a newspaper or watch the news. Its too horrible even for adults sometimes IMO I buy my older children (10 and 12) First News and let them watch Newsround.

GenevieveHawkings Mon 12-Sep-11 08:41:14

Let children be children for as long as possible and enjoy carefree lives free from worry and responsibility and having to know about nasty stuff.

God knows life is hard enough and full of enough shit when you get to be an adult and have to face it.

When a child is old enough to be really be able to understand and digest the news at some level, let them watch Newsround but what child watches Newsround at age 3 and a half?

People like to kid themselves that children genuinely understand a lot more than they do at an early age but that's usually more of a reflection of the parents expectations than anything else.

My DS has never really asked all that much about 9/11 even now and he's 11. Doesn't mean he's thick, uninquisitive, anaware, disinterested, insensitive (*delete as applicable) though. He's just a kid.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 12-Sep-11 09:01:26

Its great she likes looking at the paper but to my mind, adult newspapers are liable to contain material not really suitable for children. Perhaps you shoud consider getting something like First News for her to go through (lots of animal stories) and then just show her nice bits from the adult paper?

DDs nanny used to cut pictures out of the Sunday mags, I had to warn her to check through the Sunday times before she let DD see it as that often has particularly disturbing images - good photojournalism, but not meant for kids.

limetrees Mon 12-Sep-11 09:05:34

Newspapers and news programmes are not suitable for young children.

IwoulddoPachacuti Mon 12-Sep-11 09:06:24

My 6 year old ds caught a bit of one of the programmes that was on last week when he came downstairs for the toilet. I just told him there was a fire in a building and left it at that. I think even at 6 it is too young to go into any form of detail about this sort of thing. Let them keep their innocence for as long as possible.

IwoulddoPachacuti Mon 12-Sep-11 09:10:06

Fwiw I remember reading my gran's magazines when I was about 8 or 9 and every week there was a survivors account of some disaster that had happened. That was when I found out about things like Hillsborough and the Kings Cross Fire. It haunted me for weeks but I couldn't stop reading them! I was quite a sensitive child though.

mateysmum Mon 12-Sep-11 09:13:09

My DS was 3 when 9/11 happened and it was impossible to stop him seeing some of the TV pictures or to avoid him seeing me crying in the middle of the afternoon!
I just told him some bad men had done a bad thing and some planes had crashed and mummy was upset because some people had died. He accepted that at face value and then forgot about it and went on doing what 3 yr olds do. 10 yrs later, he doesn't remember anything of that day in "real time".
So I'm with cogito. You won't scar her for life by being honest with her in simple terms.

RoundOrangeHead Mon 12-Sep-11 09:25:32

my 8yo heard about it on the radio and she was quite frightened by it

3.5 too too young to know about such things

RoundOrangeHead Mon 12-Sep-11 09:26:32

I remember reading about the Yorkshire Ripper at 8, was terrified as we lived in the area at the time

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 12-Sep-11 09:33:56

I think it's a strange attitude indeed that says newspapers and news programmes are not suitable for children. They're not going to be the slightest bit interested in it most of the time but, if they ask a question, I think they deserve an answer. People who believe children should be shielded at all costs... how do you handle other distressing events? What happens if a pet dies or - worse - granny? Do you just pretend nothing has happened? Not tell them?

Abecedarium Mon 12-Sep-11 09:34:18

My 4 year old asked the same thing last week having seen a clip (with the moving plane) on Breakfast news, not something she normally sees but it just so happened she did. I went down the 'some people hate the way the Americans live and did something terrrible about it' route. She asked the question, I gave a truthful but very short reply. She moved on. I wouldn't deliberately set out to teach her about it at the moment (obviously) but it came up and I don't see why I would lie to her.

Pagwatch Mon 12-Sep-11 09:36:24

I have two smart children who, at a young age , were capeable of asking quite astute questions. Dd for example was very interested in the Madeleine McCann story.
I could have answered in quite sone detail because there are large chunks of it that she would have understood. I might even have been tempted to be quite proud of the fact that she was so smart and encouraged her in her quest for details.
But it was not good for her. I told her the minimum. I tried to be honest but I editorialised to the minimum.it is not a gift to her nor it is not a sign of being intelligent to read the newspaper. Buy her a kids newspaper or a comic

A child may be intellectually capeable of reading the newspaper and watching the news. One could almost feel quite smug about our clever knowing child. But having to explain to a 9 year old how an adult can rape a baby is the end of that particular road

Pagwatch Mon 12-Sep-11 09:38:48

I think I have an unfortunate mixed post there.

My 4 year old dd was curious about Madeleine McCann
My son, aged 8 or 9, saw an item in the news about a couple who were jailed for the rape of a baby.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 12-Sep-11 10:06:34

Isn't there a danger of a disconnect there, Pagwatch? We are careful to tell our children 'don't talk to strangers' but if they don't understand why i.e. that some grown-ups want to hurt children (and no, I don't think we should be going into all the gory details), are they going to take us seriously?

ChristinedePizan Mon 12-Sep-11 10:11:33

Cogito - re stranger danger, I just tell my DS it's because I wouldn't know where he was and so would be sad. I don't think he needs to know that it's because someone that abducts a child is probably doing it to rape and kill them.

Pagwatch Mon 12-Sep-11 11:46:16

I don't tell my children not to talk to strangers. I think stranger danger is a stupid programme. Abuse is far far more likely to be by a person who is a relative or family friend.

I tell my dc not to go with anyone unless I am there and say they can. I tell them to tell me immediately if anyone tells them to keep a secret.

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