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Family Forum: How Did You Tell Your Kids About bin Laden's Death?

This week we're talking about Osama bin Laden's assassination. We hope you'll share how your family is coping with the news.

It seems like there's always something happening in the world that we'd prefer our children knew nothing about. Right now, for me, it happens to be Osama Bin Laden's assassination.

Talking about this event opens a whole can of proverbial worms, because you have to speak of ugly truths like terrorism, hate, religious extremism, war, killing and September 11. Depending on the age of a child, this can be a daunting task. If your child is too young to know about the World Trade Center disaster, it can certainly be hard to explain. There's a balance between stating the facts, which might be frightening,  and it's hard to know how much information is too much.

And yet, it's almost impossible to keep them completely in the dark. Even if you somehow manage to keep them away from the television, where they could catch a glimpse even when you aren't tuned into the news, there are computer home pages shouting headlines, adult conversations to overhear, and school friends chattering away whether they know the facts or not. Your older child might have questions, while younger children could have nightmares or fears that somehow a terrorist could attack their own town or home. Children can feel sadness, guilt, or even start thinking philosophically — how does the U.S. know bin Laden did these things? Even if he did them, is it right to kill him? What about treating others the way you want to be treated? Isn't murder wrong, no matter what?

So how is your family dealing with the news? How did you decide whether or not to talk to your kids about it? And if you did, what was their reaction? Did you keep it simple, or rehash events since 2001? Were there resources you found helpful, and what were they? One link we found helpful was from BrainPOP, an animated video geared for kids about September 11 and Bin Laden's assassination.

Please share your thoughts with us!

Sandy Martocchia May 04, 2011 at 05:31 PM
I think because we live in the New York area, 9/11 news stories are relatively plentiful. My daughter is 9 (I was three months pregnant on 9/11). I asked her questions and found out she was aware that planes flew into buildings in the city and lots of people died. She knew it was done on purpose so I went from there. I told her that the government found the man who planned the attack and they killed him. I did not sugarcoat it. She is at the age where she sees news headlines and asks lots of questions. I find honesty is important and I also let her know that we love her and she is safe with us. Just knowing that she can talk to us has made her comfortable enought to ask us tough questions.
Rebecca Hoey May 04, 2011 at 05:40 PM
I absolutely discussed it first thing in the am with my 6th grader. It's always been important to me for her to learn about our countries current events, not just because it's part of who we are, but due to the fact that she's been honoring the fallen of Sept. 11, and our war heroes for years now, through both school and home. We also have several family members and friends who are both active in the military and veterans, so touching on this was just automatic for us. My brother also lost a few friends on Sept. 11, 2001, so that is pretty close to us as well. My initial feeling on hearing of bin Laden's death was relief, then undying gratitude to the troops(as always)...but then the thought arouse that it's not the end.
Rebecca Hoey May 04, 2011 at 05:48 PM
The hardest part later on in the day for me, was the reactions that many adult were having as far as "dancing in the streets" kind of thing, and using graphic means of what they wanted to do to him, along with other reactions as well. I myself did not lose some super close to me--I may have been dancing too-I don't know...my brother who did lose--was not dancing but simply said: "he's dead". Everyone has every right to react the way they deem appropriate--that's why we live here!! I discussed the different reactions people were having with my girl...I didn't get graphic of course with any details as they did--she's old enough to know know brutal those things can get--besides it 's not in my interest to get graphic at all in the first place. We know that neither terrorism nor evil died that day--they never will!! In the end it's our troops who we applaud and dedicate all to them--it was something that needed to be done. And we are thankful everyday that we have them to protect us. But I hope we will never dance and sing at the death of anyone-bad or good...that would only add to the evil.
Rebecca Hoey May 04, 2011 at 05:55 PM
What truly hit me head on was when about mid-day, one of my elementary school buddies on fb posted that 9/11 took her the husband of her three boys, and how happy she now was that she felt her husband could now rest in peace...I shared it with my daughter. She smiled and said : "Aaaaw--that's really good, Mommy".
Dawn Betke May 04, 2011 at 06:00 PM
For me I actually didn't no about the events that took place until after my daughter had already went off to school. I knew full well that she would come home with questions and thoughts. The first thing she said to me was that some of the kids at the Middle School were shouting Bin Laden is dead when she walked in and of course while she knew this meant he was no longer a threat she couldn't understand why this meant we should "party". I actually agree. I can understand fully those who lost someone in 9/11 or where there feeling a sense of closure now, and I would never take that away from them. I simply don't agree with the visions on the news of people in Times Square cheering etc. There is a quote going around Facebook, that was actually MIS quoted as being from Martin Luther King Jr. and truthfully it dosen't matter to me who wrote it, it explains my sentiments exactly: I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only LOVE can do that.
Kristen Halpin May 04, 2011 at 06:17 PM
I think it can be really hard to talk about because I worry that my girls will become so worried about it they will become fearful of the world. But, I also know talking about it, both frankly and on their level, is what curtails irrational fears. So, we usually ask them what they have heard, what they think they know and what their teachers are saying about it. This usually gets them talking and then we discuss it. They're also older, which makes Bin Laden an easier subject to talk about because they already know about other historical acts of violence, terror and hatred. I also think (at least I try to do this) that it's important that they know the wholeness of Bin Laden's evil and not just its affect on the American people, but how his extremist beliefs affected many different countries and, more specifically for me and my girls, women. Because they're daughters and it's important for them to be able to recognize and not take for granted the opportunities they are given in life and, also, to recognize oppression. Because they're older, they go to news websites (cnn, bbc, pbs...) (I try to keep them away from Wikipedia, but I'm losing that battle.) This also provided a good opportunity to talk about cultural awareness and the concepts of tolerance and religious freedoms.
Rebecca Hoey May 04, 2011 at 06:26 PM
I saw this quote floating around also Dawn--it's beautiful...
April Pokorny May 04, 2011 at 06:52 PM
Kristen - I think your approach is sensible and wise. I hadn't even thought of the oppression of women angle as part of his extremism. I heard a lot of hallway chatter among the elementary students in my school, but because I am a special area teacher, I don't have a class of my own. I know many of the classroom teachers addressed the kids' questions in their classes. I had mostly Kindergarten students on Monday, and there was little if any talk among them. If any questions arise later in the week, I will be sure to keep your talk in mind.
John Carway May 05, 2011 at 11:32 AM
Obviously this news has to be shared and explained with children in an age appropriate manner. Personally, while I am glad bin Laden is out of the picture, I don't believe in dancing in the streets. Such activities cheapen life which is precious. That is what Osama bin Laden did when he ordered the deaths of thousands of our citizens including some of my friends. What I object to is that slanted way in which this story was presented. There was no assasination. This terrorist was a legitimate military target. The Seals went in to get him. Their efforts met with armed resistance and he was killed. That's what happens in a war. He started it. Stop and listen to bin Ladens own words after 9/11 . I wish our world was less violent, but for the author of this article to characterize our troops who were defending her life and liberty as murders is the height of idiocy. The murderers are the Al Quaida thugs who televise the beheading of journalists. These are people who strap explosive vests to the backs of their 12 year old children. Try explaining that to a child.
tatum May 05, 2011 at 03:50 PM
I wanted to take a moment to thanks the author for mentioned BrainPOP and, more importantly, for helping/supporting others to address this with their children and students. Besides the 9/11 animated movie we do also have other movies on this topic that may be helpful like terrorism, war, airport security, etc. Linked to each movie there are interactive resources like activity pages with writing prompts, discussion prompts, vocabulary words, interactive quizzes, high interest reading, and more to support the discussions with children. When I was a teacher I found that it gave me just the support I needed to introduce and broach all kinds of topics, including ones that were difficult, in a kid-friendly way. We've heard parents echo that as well. Thanks again for supporting and asking parents for their input, ideas, and resources. Tatum Murphy BrainPOP - Education Outreach

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