I thought this was a great article and wanted to pass it along:

- Kat Coy


School Counseling for September 12th

The tenth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 seems to be 
everywhere. Talk shows are devoting the entire week to interviews and 
remembrances of those who were lost in the attacks. Teacher Web sites are 
bursting at the seams with lesson plans for students of all ages. With the day 
falling on a Sunday, the road side signs of churches promise sermon after 
sermon devoted to the context of the day from a larger view.

It would be easy enough to assume these activities won’t stir the memories of 
our students, or impact their daily lives. This year’s high school seniors were 
seven years old the day the planes landed in New York, Washington DC, and 
Pennsylvania, and the sixth graders of 2011 were barely walking in 2001. 
Combined with the excitement of starting the school year, getting used to a 
new school, and applying for college, it would be an honest mistake to think 
the students aren’t touched by the events or memories of that day, and won’t 
pay much attention to the events of this weekend.

But it would still be a mistake.

Students may not have vivid memories of what happened ten years ago, but 
their parents will—and given the dynamics of that Tuesday morning and all that 
has happened in between, it’s understandable if parents aren’t able to be as 
objective as they usually would be when explaining complex issues to their 

At the same time, some high school students may have very vivid memories of 
that day. Their memory of the event may not be clear, but it’s likely they will 
remember some of what happened, and exactly where they were. How many 
baby boomers will begin their discussion of the day John Kennedy was shot with 
“I was seven, and it was the end of lunch period at school…?” Why would we 
expect dimmer memories of 9/11 from their much more tech-savvy children or 

Some children may indeed not be impacted at all by the events of this 
weekend, but as is the case with all good counseling, the best plan is to have 
a plan. If you haven’t already done so, take a minute to put together some tips 
for parents on how they should talk with their children about 9/11, and how to 
be prepared if the guest speaker in the church, synagogue, or mosque 
surrenders to the emotions of the moment. It’s not too late to send out a last-
minute e-mail with this information, and many parents will thank you for it (a 
Google search of “talking to your children about 9/11” yields some mighty fine 

Remind parents of the importance of monitoring TV and computer time this 
weekend. It’s always a good idea to keep technology in check, but all of the 
commemorative events being broadcast can quickly turn an interest in history 
into an obsession with security.

Give parents the skills and words to use to make sure their children end the 
weekend with as strong a sense of safety as possible. That is always a 
nuanced task, but parents will welcome any ideas you can lend, as long as 
they are presented as options, not recipes or dictums. Support their innate 
abilities to know how to love their children, and all will go well.

Finally, be prepared for business as un-usual September 12. It’s unlikely any 
students will walk up to you and say “I’m having some real concerns about 
9/11”, but there’s always a chance one or two may have a concern that is 
being acted out at school instead of being discussed in your office. A gentle 
reminder to your colleagues that you (or someone else) has a fairly open 
calendar on Monday, combined with a little CWA—Counseling by Wandering 
Around—can reassure students and faculty alike that a listening ear and helping 
hand awaits, should the need arise.

This is indeed a busy time, with students starting new years and building bright 
futures. Those plans need not be dimmed as our nation takes an appropriate 
pause this weekend to look at what has passed. With the right words and an 
open office door, we can show our students how to do both with poise, 
respect, and an egoless sense of self.

Patrick J. O'Connor, Ph.D.
Director of College Counseling
Roeper School
1051 Oakland Avenue
Birmingham Michigan 48009
248.203.7418 (voice)
248.642.8619 (fax) <> 

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