Experts Say Don’t Ignore the Topic of Osama bin Laden With Kids, But Ask Open-Ended Questions, Then Shut-Up, and Listen

Just listening, being supportive, and making a child feel safe and secure should be our only goal when discussing Osama bin Laden with a child.

Last night I watched Dr Drew on CNN discuss and try to answer the question: what do we tell our kids now that Osama bin Laden is dead?

A lot of nannies mentioned on our facebook page they are happy they don’t have to say anything about 9/11 or Osama bin Laden to the children in their care. But the child psychologist interviewed on the show explained that it’s impossible to ignore the topic when the news is everywhere.

But, it is also important to keep the discussion age-appropriate. The Dr Drew show made it clear we should just answer the question the child asks. There is absolutely no need to scare them with graphic stories of people jumping from the World Trade Towers and survivors running over human body parts.

It is enough for us to listen to children’s concerns, comfort them to let them know that they are safe, and NOT discuss the details of 9/11 any futher — until the day comes when they ask more specific questions.

Yesterday, I mentioned that for many children the killing of Osama bin Laden is a moral dilemma: how can killing be okay? Today, I realize we shouldn’t try to convince them otherwise.

Just listening, being supportive, and making a child feel safe and secure should be our only goal when discussing Osama bin Laden with a child.


  1. My dad boss works in the world financial center (at ground zero). They had family who were fire fighters and first responders and attended over 20 funerals from 9/11. The kids have known from an early age, they visit their dad at work and you can't ignore ground zero.I told the kids 4, 6, 8 we are happy he died but normally we don't celebrate death but this was the very bad man who blew up the buildings we told you about. They are fine. Same if you had a grandparent in ww2 they told you about it from an early age. Those who weren't directly affected learn about it in school. But when your family is directly involved in war kids hear about it from an early age and are fine.But, it's true all around the world and from any generation, when someone kills your loved one you want revenge… That's why the wars haven't ended around the world.

  2. I appreciate the advice. It's hard to let kids just express their feelings and not speak or try to change their minds.But I understand how commenter above feels also. Many children have parents working in the military and deal with these topics daily.I will try to listen to kids more carefully.

  3. I saw this on ur fb page hope writer doesn't mind my putting it here:I don't think we, as Nannies, should talk to the children about this topic at all. I don't feel it's really something children need to be aware of and if the parents feel its an appropriate topic or if the children ask about it, its up to the parents to speak with them, in my opinion….not the Nanny.

  4. IF WE CAN'T TRY TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL GOOD ABOUT HIS DYING THEN THEY SHOULDN'T MAKE US FEEL BAD FOR CELEBRATING HIS DEATH EITHER!It works both ways! I'm sick of ignorant people thinking they are of a higher moral standard than most Americans! He deserved torture, not quick death! He's a coward, evil, killer with no soul! He killed so we killed him. Not like the people he killed who didn't deserve it. He brought this upon himself.I won't try to change the kids minds, but adults thinking they are morally superior than those of us who are celebrating deserve to be lectured as well! Don't lecture me on morality if you didn't lose a loved one on 9/11!

  5. I am a parent and hire a nanny. I appreciate the advice. I explained to my 4 year old that people were happy because there had been a win in the war. War is sad but in war people sometimes die. Best thing you can do is be honest. Tell them that a bad person died, and some people are happy, while some people are sad. It's important to give kids both sides and let them make up their mind.

  6. I understand but I didn't read advice before telling the kids Monday morning and I don't think they lost any sleep over it. Kids are stronger than you give them credit. We don't need to lie. Just be sensitive to them. Don't give disgusting details "he was shot in eye and brains are sticking out of his head" (I heard on news this is in photo) but say he's dead because we were at war against him for 10 yrs.

  7. I guess now I realize we should leave it to the parents. But to late I told them. They are OK though.

  8. We absolutely must respect others opinions. But, killing Osama bin Laden was a good thing and those who don't think so are in the minority.

  9. We are at WAR with terrorism are we not? We knew all along soldiers were in Afghanistan did we not? I completely agree about just answering the questions kids ask and not elaborating any farther.

  10. Love the link and the show! With kids I agree 100% about listening and shutting up.But in regards to adults who are sympathetic to the terrorist I feel we should only need to be as good as our enemies are to us. We should only be as respectful, kind, considerate, and tolerant as those who hate us are. Why did we have to show him or any of his followers any dignity? The American Administration, Navy SEALS did the exact right thing.

  11. I refuse to have the news on when the children are awake. They’re only children for such a short while, why worry them with events like earthquakes and Bin Laden? It made me feel very uneasy to see people celebrating on the streets on the news. He may have been a terrorist, but when we start rejoicing at the death of a person (no matter how evil) then we’re setting ourselves on the same path!

  12. To USA above:Because we are civilized. We don't torture because we are civilized. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard than others may for us.Americans aren't terroritsts or barbarians and we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. It's not eye for an eye. We can't be evil too.That being said, I am still relieved the world is now safer without him.I think we can be both: moral and kill the bastard.

  13. This morning I had to take my charges a school ager and preschooler to the doctor for a last minute appointment. In the waiting room CNN was on, and of course the topic was ObL. The younger one was on the far side and in her own little world. The one closer to me said Who is that? And I answered with a sentence and I thought of this blog. I asked have you heard of him? The kid said everybody was happy about his being killed at school – but who was he. I realized at that point how she was somewhat sheltered and also unaware because she was born post 9/11. Then I thought is it my place to bring this up or not. Here she will be going back into school in a half hour and who knows what she will hear. Do I want her to learn about terrorism and how our country responded to it on the playground. Or do I want responsible adults start teaching her about this. So I made a decision to go with the latter. Then hoped my bosses would be okay with that, I believe I hope they think I made the best choice without being able to check in with them before proceeding. Fortunately though, in the past my bosses and I have talked about other tough topics and how they were handled with children. So I am hoping I remained neutral and impartial. ANY OPINIONS etc they want to share is up to them. BUT in my years of being in this profession I can say there are some parents that will never talk about tough topics. Because they don't know how to handle their own feelings on these things, let alone what to say to children. AND no leaving it to peers and classmates is not always okay.

  14. Thanks for sharing everyone. As long as we are thoughtful of what we say in the company of children I'm sure the parents will appreciate our efforts.


  16. Comments should have just stayed on topic about children but now that people defend bin Laden I feel I must say more.He felt he was a God. He felt he could choose who lived and died. He killed UNARMED Americans and made suicide followers do HIS DIRTY WORK! He never gave any victims any fair trial, no jury and they had committed no sins! He didn't deserve a fair fight as he didn't give THOUSANDS of American's a fair fight. Had the table been turned, bin Laden would have killed everyone in his compound since his goal was to kill as many American's as possible. Don't defend this beyond evil gross disgusting (curseword).

  17. Bin Laden's own family is giving eye witness testimony describing the attack, the Taliban and Pakistan government are confirming the death yet someone doesn't beleive Obama? Republicans are congratulating the US. You don't trust us, don't trust Pakistan, then move to some hole somewhere you dumb idiots.

  18. I don't think those doubting that he's dead are idoiots, just still shocked because it's been so long that it still feels unbelievable. It's wonderful, and once they get over the shock they will have to see it's true. It's a fact that his own family and Taliban itself say it's true so it's certainly not a lie. I think the few (very few) will see in the next few days that many people couldn't be lying.Above, anonymous sounds patriotic and angry. Just relax, he's dead and those who don't beleive it aren't going to be able to get him to come to life again.I think you just have to move on and be grateful to live in America.

  19. It doesn't matter how you feel the point is not to give the gory details to kids.

  20. my older two (10 and 12) because I knew they were going to hear all about it at school from other kids and I was right. They have known about 9/11 for years and family and friends died that day. Their parents and I danced when we heard the news and we talked about it at the breakfast table. We just said that we normally are sad when someone dies but not today because he was the man responsible for 9/11. If you live in NY, NY, CT the kids really probably know more than they need to know but the older kids came home from school talking about it in detail, so I'm glad we talked about it in the morning together before other kids told them.

  21. The American military is the largest employer in the world. The kids of soldiers deal with this and have been dealing with these conversations for a decade (and more). They are good role models.IMO I think it's almost unpatriotic to defend bin Laden.

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