This information was developed by the NYU Child Study Center for parents of all children, regardless of the impact of 9/11 on their lives. It provides guidelines to parents and family members on how to talk to children and adolescents about the events of 9/11. It also provides tips on how to support children and help them cope with their feelings and thoughts related to the anniversary.
The following guidelines are proposed to help parents and adults talk to and provide support to children and adolescents. Although this guide was developed primarily for parents and family members, the information and suggestions may also be helpful to other important adults, such as teachers and mentors.
Talking to Children about 9/11
Parents often ask when is the right time to talk to children and adolescents about 9/11. This question is often raised for children who were too young to recall the events of that day. Although there is no hard and fast rule about the “correct” time to bring up the topic, the following section provides some tips on how to raise the topic of 9/11 and the upcoming anniversary with children.
- Pick the appropriate time and place. Choose a location where you will be able to talk to your children without external distractions and for a sufficient period of time. It is best to pick a time when other pressing responsibilities (e.g., car pool, homework) or ongoing activities (e.g., playing a game or watching television) are not going to interfere with your talk.
- Know your children. Some children are naturally more prone to being reactive to information they hear about 9/11 and the anniversary, while others may not be as reactive. When speaking with your children, it is important to consider their age and maturity as well as their individual personality style and temperament. Children’s ability to process and understand issues of death and terrorism is highly dependent on their age.
- Take the first step and address the issue directly. It is often necessary for you to initiate the dialogue yourself. You can preface the discussion by stating that you are aware that there is increased discussion about 9/11 and want to have a talk about the anniversary of the event. A good starting point is to ask children what they have heard or remember about 9/11 or what they have heard or seen about the anniversary.
- Do not make assumptions. Do not assume that your children will know all the details about 9/11. On the flip side, you may be surprised that your children know more than you thought they did. Children are exposed to information on a daily basis, through school, peers, the internet, television, movies, and bill boards. If you are surprised by what your children know, find out more about their source of information.
- Provide facts and information. As difficult as it may be, it is important to state the facts in an objective manner to your children. Speak to them about what to expect prior to the anniversary. Discuss the increased media attention, images on television, the internet, printed media, and memorials. Talk to your children about the possibility of memorials at school and other community-based activities.
- Be honest and open. Children and adolescents may be more likely to open up about their feelings when parents take the lead and discuss their own thoughts about a given situation. Sharing your own feelings may help to normalize the experiences of your children.
- Be objective. When talking to your children about 9/11, it is important to avoid making generalizations about groups of individuals which may dehumanize the situation. It is also critical that adults avoid burdening children with their own fears, anger, or concerns.
- Listen and invite questions. Listen to your children’s thoughts, feelings, and questions. Encourage your children to ask questions about aspects of 9/11 they may remember and information they may have obtained through the media and other sources. This is especially important for the younger children who may not recall the events of 9/11 as they unfolded. By answering children’s questions, parents can correct misinformed assumptions and reduce anxiety, fear, and confusion. If adults do not address these questions and concerns, children may try to put together potentially incorrect or confusing information from other sources, including each other.
- Focus on feelings and thoughts. Parents should not make assumptions about children’s thoughts, perceptions, or concerns. You are encouraged to provide your children with an opportunity to openly talk about their perception. Assure children that their feelings and thoughts are valid, even if you do not agree with them.
Tips for Families and Friends Who Lost a Loved One on 9/11
- Do the best you can. Getting through the anniversary will take a lot of energy. There is no “correct” or “incorrect” way to handle the anniversary and the memorial services. Do what you believe is best for your family’s well-being.
- Speak to children’s teachers and school professionals. If children will be in school or elsewhere, obtain information about what is planned for the anniversary, or the days leading up to the anniversary. This is especially important so that parents can speak to children prior to the event to prepare them for any specially planned activities and memorials.
- Attend to feelings. Be mindful of expectations and feelings about the day and its meaning. The significance of the day may provoke complicated emotions. Relief when the day is over may be mixed with further realization of all that has happened and how different life has become. Not only will the day bring remembrances of a difficult event or of a person who died, it can also stir feelings and reactions related to the original event. Such an “anniversary” reaction would not be unusual, where there is a re-experiencing of similar thoughts and emotions from the original tragedy.
- Describe the situation clearly to your children. Talk openly with your children about the upcoming anniversary and anticipated family involvement. Describe what will take place in simple and clear language. Explain what they will see and how people might react. At any age, children can become confused by the events and by seeing other people’s expressions of strong emotions.
- Instill hope. Tell your children that by being prepared and anticipating the anniversary and increased attention on 9/11, they will be able to better cope.
- Consider options. Consider how different options for the anniversary fit your needs and address your feelings. Decide if you prefer to be part of a large public gathering, traditional community ceremonies, or an intimate personal memorial.
- Plan as a family. In planning with your children:
- Know your child: Consider your children’s emotional functioning, developmental level, and wishes when planning events for the anniversary.
- Make joint decisions: Adults and children will feel empowered and in control if everyone in the family has input in the decision-making process. Make decisions according to each individual’s needs and wants, and respect everyone’s wishes.
- Listen: Open and honest discussions with your children regarding thoughts, concerns, and feelings about the anniversary are important. Ask your children what they would like to do regarding the anniversary. Listen to and be open to their suggestions and consider their feelings, ideas and concerns. Try to incorporate everyone’s ideas when making a decision.
- Expect emotions: Even those who have been effectively coping with the trauma or death may experience troubling thoughts or feelings in relation to the anniversary or planning for a memorial service.
- Respect your children’s needs: Some children may resist becoming involved in planning for the anniversary. Respect your children’s needs and feelings in these situations. Allow your children to decide for themselves what their comfort level is regarding their involvement in planning for the anniversary. Attendance and involvement in memorial services should be an option and not a requirement for children.
- Provide choices: Involvement in the anniversary does not have to be all or nothing. Parents and teachers should plan different options of activities for the anniversary so that children and adolescents can have a choice regarding their level of involvement.
- Plan ahead. After making a decision about the anniversary, plan all aspects of the event ahead of time. Review the details of the memorial and consider any aspects which may make you or your children feel uncomfortable.
- Problem solve. Have a discussion with your children about how they will cope when faced with news or images about an upcoming movie or the anniversary. Come up with a plan on how children can change their level of involvement on the day of the anniversary or be able to leave the situation or event.
- Anticipate children’s reactions. Think ahead so you can deal with moments that may be awkward or upsetting for children. Consider and anticipate your children’s reactions to planned events. Talk to your children about their feelings and concerns prior to the event and problem solve ways in which you can help them better cope.
- Be prepared for change. Plans may be put in place but as the day draws closer, feelings and needs may change. Being flexible and making new plans may be necessary. Children may change their mind about their level of involvement in the anniversary memorial. Give them permission to withdraw and re-enter family events as needed, or to change their commitment and level of involvement in events.
- Use your social support network and resources in your community. Be with friends and family, who will act as a source of support, assistance and comfort. Enlist the help of others for support or assistance in errands and everyday functions in the days prior to and following the anniversary. You may also need some help with child care if your children do not attend a memorial service.
Dear Tuesday's Chiildren families and friends,
Did you know that there were over 400 charities formed in the ashes of 9/11? Did you know that today there are only a handful left standing?
Indeed, Tuesday’s Children is still the only charity prioritizing the needs of 9/11 children. We made a simple and solemn Promise to those who carry the weight of the devastation of that day: We Promised to be there to support them into adulthood. This is “The Promise."
As time passes, donors tire, the economy has entered a recession and some simply want to turn the page. Yet, the Board and the Staff of Tuesday’s Children keep on serving because they know that 9/11 kids don’t have the choice to turn the page. They carry it with them. It is a part of who they are.
Clearly, there is so much more work to be done: The youngest 9/11 kids are only eight and nine years old.
Through Project COMMON BOND, our teenagers are giving back to others around the world who have suffered from acts of terrorism.
Please join me, with your help we can keep The Promise,
David Weild IV
Chairman of the Board
Taking a Gap Year
What is a gap year? It means different things to different people, and in different countries. To us, a gap year is a break between high school and college which offers a graduated senior the opportunity to pursue special interests, try something new, address academic or other concerns, or take a break before the rigors of college. Interest in gap years seems to have grown annually during the past decade, and we have spoken with many seniors this year about why and how they might do something different than college next year. If you are wondering if you are ready for college, thinking you’d like to improve your record in order to be admitted to different colleges, hoping to pursue an extracurricular or academic passion, or considering a chance to travel the world or serve your local or global community, then a gap year might be right for you.
We should make one basic distinction here between a deferral year and a more open-ended gap year. A deferral year refers to a situation where you have been admitted to a college you like and have made an enrollment deposit there. In most cases, you can then write to the college and request to defer your matriculation for a semester or a year. Typically, the college would ask that you have a plan outlined and some reasons for the deferral. Check out the academic policies at your particular college to see if deferring is an option and what the rules are. If you are a junior already planning a gap year between high school and college, you can shape your list to include colleges that state their openness to deferrals. Two general conditions will apply if you are granted a deferred entrance. First, you must not enroll in any full-time academic study as a degree student at another college. Second, you should not apply to any other colleges for full-time freshman admission without notifying your deferral school. This can get complicated, but if you decide you would rather not attend the college where you have made a deposit, you will likely need to give up that guaranteed space while you apply to other schools. In some cases, the deferral college will give you the chance to attend, perhaps asking you to write a letter explaining that you are still interested and what you have accomplished during your deferral year.
The second type of gap year is open-ended in the sense that you are not holding onto a spot for college the following year. So, you must apply to schools during the fall of your gap year. You must also consider how your gap year might impact your chances for admission. In our experience, almost any productive gap year will be seen as a net positive for you. You will come across as more mature, and perhaps more ready to succeed in college. If you finished senior year well, you will be able to show a full four-year high school curriculum and GPA. You can retake standardized tests if you need to, with more time to prepare for them. Being “productive” is a subjective determination. Are there weaknesses you need to address in your transcript or background? Some students will enroll full-time in a post-graduate (PG) year at a U.S. or international boarding school in order to have more structure and academic rigor. That will help you to improve your academic standing and get extra support as you apply (or re-apply) to colleges that interest you.
Are you almost recruitable in your favorite sport? Perhaps a PG year, or participating in a competitive league independently, or on an Olympic development squad, will help you get to the next level. Music? Arts? Theater? If one of these areas is of special interest to you, there are drama programs, music conservatories, youth symphonies, art institutes…There is virtually no limit to the kinds of programs you can find and combine during the fifteen or so months between your high school graduation and your college entrance.
Not interested in programs? You can work, in a mundane series of jobs, in a compelling internship, abroad or in the U.S. You can volunteer, work on a political campaign, join Americorps. We typically suggest that students break up their gap year into several chunks, to have fun, and to try new things, but this will depend on your own goals and interests. Showing independence, maturity, a willingness to take risks, curiosity, leadership, a passion for an intellectual interest – all of these personal traits are valuable, and one is not “better” than another. Focus on the things you would be most interested in doing and follow your heart. Within the limitations of time and financial means, you should be able to have a great year, and one that will help you succeed and get the most out of college when you enroll.
Howard Greene & Associates
60 Post Road West, Westport, CT 06880 (203) 226-4257
39A East 72nd Street, New York, NY 10021 (212) 737-8866
AN INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM FOR
YOUNG ADULTS IMPACTED BY TERRORISM
Project COMMON BOND 2011
Continues to be a Success
Seventy-six teens from around the world that have the unfortunate common bond of having lost a family member to an act of terrorism joined together for a week long alliance. Project COMMON BOND, now in its fourth year, continues to change the lives of young people around the globe.
For eight days in July at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, 76 teenagers from Argentina, Israel, Ireland, Liberia, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Russia, Spain, Sri Lanka, and the United States came together to heal, explore the concept of dignity and the role it plays in conflict resolution, and form friendships that will last a lifetime.
In 2012, Project Common Bond will be held 30 minutes outside of Boston, MA on July 12 - 20. Download your application here.
In just around 5 hours and I am going to leave America. I am so sad. I feel that I need more. But I am also so happy because I met so many inspiring people. I shared my whole life with them...our laughter, foods, feelings, dorm rooms, bad moments and beautiful memories. At the end we became a big family. I believe in this quote "A single rose can be my garden... a single friend, my world.” So if I have a friend like PCB's friends that means that I have the whole world ..! love you guys ♥
- Palestinian Participant
News outlets such as The Washington Post, BBC, Telemundo, USA Today, and NY1 were able to come in and capture a part of the experience to share with the world. This was another successful year in continuing Tuesday’s Children’s steps towards fostering collaboration, peace building, and global stewardship. Some participants were returning for their third and forth year, while other participants were the first time representatives from their country to attend Project COMMON BOND. The first day was spent in team building exercises that encouraged trust and communication and ended around a bonfire making s’mores and learning line dances.
During the week, the young adults participated in an interactive curriculum that introduced the Dignity Model, developed by Dr. Donna Hicks of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, at Harvard University. Monica Meehan McNamara, Director of Curriculum, and a team of facilitators skilled in both conflict resolution and psychology, led the three hour morning sessions. Exploring the concept of dignity offers an accessible and applicable message of hope and transformation. Dignity is inherent in all human beings, and that to act with dignity is to extend to others what we would like for ourselves. We cannot always bring about resolution in conflict, but by recognizing that conflict is about the violation of individual’s dignity, we can take immediate steps to address our own dignity and that of each other. Our motto for the week was, “we can do better”.
In the afternoons the participants were active in various electives including art, drama therapy, movement, music, and sports. The outcomes of the electives were displayed and performed at the talent show finale.
Evening activities included a workshop on stress reduction conducted by Dr. Mandy Habib, an inspirational talk with Michael Brown, a 35 year old who lost his father in a terrorist incident when he was nine, and a World Café, a dialogue activity that encourages open discussion and real conversation for a better world. There was also plenty of free time to relax, socialize and use the gym. There was no shortage of talent at PCB. Many participants took the opportunity to spontaneously play the piano, guitar, sing or dance.
To me PCB is a great brotherhood in which we all have something in common that makes each of us feel even more special. The fact is that PCB makes us feel safe, happy and comfortable with people who are around us. This experience for me was incredible. The people I have met have treated me very well and I feel grateful for life with them! I hope PCB will always continue for all those teenagers who need to understand. It is comforting to know there will always be someone who understands you and supports you, in my opinion, a conclusion that makes PCB!
- Spanish participant
On Thursday, July 28th, the group traveled into Washington D.C. to explore the Capitol Building, the State Department, the White House, and the National Mall. It was a long and fully filled day where the participants were able to interact with many different organizations that all work towards peace. The group also visited the United States Institute of Peace. There, USIP's Ann-Louise Colgan talked to the students about their work and plans for the Global Peacebuilding Center, which will extend the Institute's educational work with younger audiences and include the launch of a new website in the fall. USIP's David Smith and Cheryl Saferstein engaged the group in a peacebuilding activity.
This week continued to build on the amazing experiences of Project COMMON BOND of past years. To date 220 young adults have participated in this transformational program. Participants from all over the world have been able to continue their supportive community of peers through the use of a private PCB Facebook group and Skype, allowing the strong bonds that are formed to continue to flourish and grow. We are confident in the results of Project COMMON BOND and its ability to grow and help more teenagers.
I just realized something that I have to thank you all for... I remember reading the letter to parents and it said you might notice a change in your child after PCB. It was only today that I realized that I have changed for the better since PCB. I started changing who I want to be and what I want from life and without noticing I have started clearing negative people from my life because they have been a bad influence on my mood and my life. So I made a decision to only have positive people who want to grab life in both hands and live it and not be negative all the time and not try to live life in a positive way. - Irish participant
To view NY1 coverage of Project Common Bond 2011 - Washington DC, click the images below.
To view a video of the Project Common Bond 2010 - Belfast, click the image below.
About Project COMMON BOND
Project COMMON BOND brings together teens, ages 15-20, from around the world who share a “common bond” — the loss of family member due to an act of terror. Launched in 2008, Project COMMON BOND has so far brought together over 225 teenagers from eleven different countries and territories to turn their experiences losing a loved one to terrorism into positive actions that can help others exposed to similar tragedy. Participants echo the mantra of our program to “Let Our Past Change the Future.”
Teens gather for an eight-day healing and peace-building symposium in a safe and supportive environment, where they engage in dialogue and community-building activities that acknowledge and respect their differences while promoting friendship and understanding. Project COMMON BOND is building an international community of young people whose lives have been transformed by terrorism—global ambassadors working toward peace, positivity and empowerment.
Project COMMON BOND is the most expansive and fastest growing of Tuesday’s Children’s programs and the only international program uniting children directly impacted by acts of terrorism. In August 2010, we held our annual Project COMMON BOND symposium for the first time outside of the U.S., in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
This year, Project COMMON BOND will be held 30 minutes outside of Boston, MA at Governor's Academy from July 12 - 20. Download your application here.
› Provide opportunities for personal and collective healing
› Acknowledge and respect differences through dialogue
› Promote friendship, understanding and tolerance
› Build upon the “Common Bond” through interactive activities and community service projects
› Impart skills in conflict resolution and peace-building
› Explore ways to effect change
› Foster resilience and strength and illuminate steps toward a united and brighter worldwide future
› Healing – to help youth affected by trauma become more resilient
› Transformation – to learn conflict resolution skills
› Leadership Development – to affect positive change in home communities
For children whose lives have been directly touched by terrorism, the sudden, violent, and public nature of their loss becomes an overwhelming and defining characteristic of their lives. As reported by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, the incidence of terrorism targeting civilians is increasing rather than decreasing. In the nine years since 9/11, nearly 100,000 more people have been killed or injured as a result of a terrorist act. This number is increasing annually as various parts of the world become less stable places in which to live, drastically increasing the number of families, including children, experiencing loss and disability. Incidents in Argentina, England, Ireland, Israel, Liberia, Northern Ireland, the Palestinian territories, Spain, and numerous other countries across continents, have resulted in the death or injury of thousands of civilians, changing families forever.
Currently, there is no mechanism to bring together young people who have experienced similar tragedies to build their resilience and strength. These children, in many cases, remain isolated. In a comprehensive document entitled “Managing the Psychology of Fear and Terror,” Psychology Beyond Borders—an international non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to assisting communities and individuals impacted by natural disasters, incidents of terrorism and armed conflict—states that a major strategy to enhance resilience includes “building programs and structures that facilitate community and individual bonding.” Creating community with peers who share common experiences is a powerful tool for healing and positive growth, especially for young people. The lack of community building forums after 9/11 inspired Tuesday’s Children to seize an opportunity to develop programs which created community for families and children, thereby improving their attitudes, awareness, and coping abilities.
Research has shown that teaching and practicing effective conflict resolution between people, individuals and cultures, teaching and practicing understanding and tolerance, and promoting shared humanity are necessary strategies to reduce terrorism. Project COMMON BOND, through its healing and conflict resolution programming, peace and community-building curriculum, and education initiatives, attempts to address these goals.
The idea for Project COMMON BOND came from our own experience and knowledge of the 9/11 adolescent population along with extensive research in collaboration with mental health experts and family members who have actively participated in Tuesday’s Children’s programs and services throughout the past decade. Wanting to reach out to others worldwide who have experienced a similar loss and common “bond,” Tuesday’s Children created an international community fostering positive personal growth and community action.
Project COMMON BOND accepts applications from teenagers worldwide, male and female, ages 15-20, who have lost an immediate family member due to a terrorist attack. All faiths and cultures are welcome. Participants are recruited through collaboration with respected organizations in nations affected by terrorism that work with the families who have experienced loss. These support organizations screen and select appropriate adolescents from their countries to participate in the program. To select the most appropriate participants in other countries, we worked through intermediary organizations that screened international candidates.
Criteria for participants includes the following:
There are fees associated with this program. If there is a financial hardship, please contact Kathy Murphy at 516.562.9000 or
Project COMMON BOND Partners
Project COMMON BOND Supporters
- American Airlines
- The American Ireland Fund
- Associacion De Ayuda A Las Victimas Del 11-M
- Belfast Harbour
- Bloomberg Foundation
- Douglas Ellenoff, Esq.
- Flax Trust
- Gristmill Foundation
- Jacob Marley Foundation
- Iberia Airlines
- Koby Mandell Foundation
- Manhasset Community Fund
- Mr. and Mrs. John Powers
- Santa Maria Foundation
- Mr. Aidan Smyth
- Twin Towers Orphan Fund
- Mr. John C. Whitehead
Project COMMON BOND works with respected organizations in nations affected by terrorism that help the young adults who have experienced loss. In addition to family support organizations that screen and select appropriate adolescents, program partners consist of Project COMMON BOND's curriculum providers.
- Adelphi University
- Beslan Relief Fund
- Coleman Raider International
- Columbia University Center for the Study of Trauma and Resilience
- Embassy of Sri Lanka
- European Network of Victims of Terrorism
- Families Moving On, County Omagh
- Feel the Music
- Harvard Law School Negotiation and Mediation Program
- Haverford College Center for Peace and Global Leadership
- International Foundation for Terror Act Victims
- International Sociey of Traumatic Stress Studies
- Mother’s of Beslan
- New York State Psychiatric Institute
- Northern Ireland Phoenix Project, County Armagh
- NYU Child Study Center
- Parents Circle
- The Peaceful Education Community Center in Tulkarem
- Queens University, Belfast
- Russian Children’s Welfare Society
- South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF)
- Unforgotten Children of Beslan
- WAVE Trauma Center, Belfast
- The World Foundation of Music and Healing
- Youth Peace-Builder Network
Team Tuesday's Children
Tuesday's Children invites you to participate in one of our Endurance Fundraising initiatives. Joining Team Tuesday's Children provides the perfect platform for family members, supporters and donors to partake in amazing athletic events including the New York City Marathon, the New York City Half Marathon and the New York City Triathlon, while raising funds and awareness for Tuesday's Children and the 9/11 children and families we serve. You can skip the lotteries and secure a guaranteed spot in the race of your choice.
In exchange for your "bib," you pledge to fundraise a designated amount to support Tuesday’s Children programs such as Mentoring, Career Paths, Helping Heals, Project COMMON BOND and the First Responder Alliance. If you secure your own spot in any special sporting event or any of the Tuesday’s Children charity partner events, please consider running, swimming, or biking for funds on behalf of Tuesday's Children. It is a wonderful way to maximize such inspiring athletic events while giving back to a charity in your community.
The Tuesday’s Children Development Department is here to assist you with your fundraising endeavors. We will promote your efforts on our website and support you throughout your fundraising campaign in any way we can.
Please consider joining one of the following Team Tuesday's Children events:
Please contact Alisha Feltman at 516.562.9000 or
if you have any questions or are interested in participating in one of these races. Spots are limited for all events, so it is important to RSVP early.