Explaining 9 11 In Sunday School
I’m wondering how to handle it if the attacks come up in Sunday School…
the class I teach consists of 3 to 6 year olds. I listened to ds (4) and two of his friends discuss the recent events and was amazed at how much they grasped of what had happened. I’m concerned about how to respond if the topic comes up. I don’t want the young ones to be frightened, but I want to address the topic with the older ones if they are interested or concerned. Any ideas or experiences to share along these lines?
Better they should have a few straightforward facts…
than a garble. I had all four children on Thursday night. When I asked the children “Do you know what we are lighting these candles for?”, PTD said “yes: because our protectors have all been killed and there are only one hundred left.”
There’s no reason to pre-chew the information into unrecognisable pap, or to withhold it to be replaced by schoolyard rumours. Like it or not, these events will be formative to these childrens lives; for many of them their awareness of the world starts with this. (My first memories of the world outside home and school are of Kennedy’s assassination, with all the shock and horror that followed that).
Children can often handle brutal information well, because they don’t draw the connection between the stark facts, and the suffering those facts imply. Give them the bare W-5, without too much of the human interest embellishment.
I restated the events for my part-time children as follows:
This week, some people flew three planes into big buildings on purpose. The buildings fell down. Many of the people in those buildings died or were badly hurt, including some of the firemen and policemen who tried to rescue them.
The buildings were in a city in the eastern United States. The United States is the country next to ours. The part of the United States where this happened is about 3000km away.
Nobody knows who the people were that made the planes crash. Some people think they know: they think the people were Muslims (like Natasha and her mom), and some people think that’s a reason to try to hurt Muslim people back.
That would be wrong. The people who crashed the planed did it because they let their hearts fill with hatred. Jesus told us to fill our hearts with love. The best way we can help is to fill our hearts with love; and not let hatred have any place in our hearts.
You can never predict what questions children will ask (or what answers they’ll give! – witness PTD) but you should be prepared with background information for such questions as:
How many people got hurt? – lots, more than all the people at (name some large gathering the child might recognise, but not his school or church that might cause him to feel insecure).
What are Muslims? – people who worship God in a different way than we do. They don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God. But they do believe that God wants people to love one another; and they believe God forbids killing people (who aren’t doing any harm).
Why were those people so mad? – no-one knows why someone else has the feelings they do. But what they did because of their feelings was terribly wrong. We are responsible for our feelings; we must try to fill our hearts with loving thoughts, so that our feelings lead us to do good and not evil.
Some of my words are a bit sophisticated, but they work for children who are already acquainted with the ideas. You may have to adjust the phrasing depending on the words and ideas in common use in your Sunday School.