Raising our kids in a 9/11 World

Today, as we commemorate those lost on 9/11 with flowers, memorials, and flags at half-mast, I am saddened by the loss of life, but also for the loss of innocence.  I am sad that our children will never know a life without the acts of terrorism within our country’s borders. How do we explain this to our children?  When do we tell them about it?

When your child is in kindergarten, you’ll find that they will read a book or a poem about the events of 9/11 without being very specific on the details.  They usually emphasize that some people tried to hurt our country, many people died, but our country is still strong and proud.  As they get older, the children can absorb more, taking in some of the heroic stories of ordinary people saving others, of brave firefighters rushi911ang into a building when everyone was rushing out, and of our country’s resilient spirit.  It’s not until they reach double digits, or even older, that I am planning to let my children see any of the images of buildings falling or planes crashing but I definitely want to be there when they do see it.

But the inevitable question comes out of their mouths and indeed is echoed in our own minds – Why?  Why would someone want to hurt others so much?  Why do other people hate America?  Why would God let this happen?  While I don’t pretend to know all of the potitical and religious reasoning behind the attacks, nor can I really wrap my brain around it, I do owe it to my children to explain the answer to the last question.

Here is an actual conversation that my son and I had a couple of years ago on 9/11.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Sweetie?”

“We talked about the planes crashing at school today.”

“It’s really sad, isn’t it?”

“Mom….God can do anything, right?”

“Of course, Sweetie….” Feeling a little baited now….

“So why didn’t God just reach down and stop those planes from crashing into the buildings and save all those people from dying?”

Silence……  “Hold on a second, I want to answer this question the right way.”

 

How do you explain suffering and death to a child?  And how did he get so smart about this?  Kids are way more perceptive than we give them credit for!

So after a few minutes of thinking and praying about this, I was able to formulate an answer.  Here’s how I explained it to him.

A really long time ago, when Adam and Eve decided to diobey God and eat the apple of the tree of knowledge, they brought sin into the world.  Along with sin, they distanced themselves from our Lord.  Where before, they would walk in the gardern with God, knowing him intimately, now they were cast out of the Garden and away from Him.

When sin entered the world, so too did suffering.  It isn’t that God wanted people to hurt or die.  It’s just that he wanted to give people the free choice to love him.  And having a free choice means that people make choices that can hurt others.

Yes, God could have reached down and stopped the planes, but he doesn’t act in our lives in that way.  He doesn’t want to take that choice away from us.  But know that He too cried the day that so many lives were hurt.

And God can turn everything to good in His own time.  He can bring goodness out of every bad situation.  So what is the good in this situation, my son asked.  Well, think of how many people drew closer to God in their prayers that day.  And how many people he was able to wrap in his loving comfort.  Think of how much more despair people would have felt if He hadn’t been there alongside us, sharing our tears.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the right words to explain this day to your own children!

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