How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Osama bin Laden?

Whatever their age, if your children are online, they probably found out about bin Laden's death.

Since Sunday night's unexpected announcement that , many parents are grappling with how to talk to their kids about this huge news story.

"You shall not kill."

It is one of the Ten Commandments that are taught to children around the world as soon as they begin to study religion. To break that rule is a sin, they are told.

Yet our country is celebrating the death of terrorist Osama bin Laden—a man U.S. forces hunted down and killed—with speeches, patriotic songs and spontaneous gatherings of people delighted to hear of the demise of the leader of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

With the Internet and social networking, children have been bombarded by text messages, tweets and Facebook status updates about bin Laden's death. But do they really understand what they're reading?

When do you tell your kids about something like 9/11 or Osama bin Laden being killed? How do you explain the contradiction that it's wrong to kill someone, but in this case the president said it was justified?

We’re asking parents to weigh in. What questions are your children asking? At what age do you start talking to your kids about bin Laden’s death? How are you responding to the situation?

Allan May 04, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Actually I believe it's really "thou shalt not murder"
David Holland May 04, 2011 at 04:45 PM
I've seen it written both ways. My 14 yr daughter and I watched the presidential news conference about bin Laden. I know that in 8th grade they will most definitely be discussing it in school. I did discuss the topic lightly with my 8 yr old and told him the basics of who he was and why he was killed. I explained that this was a very unique situation in which a very bad person was killed because he was a danger to others. My kids have heard about 9/11 so they somewhat comprehended and understood. If they didn't know about 9/11 it would have been harder.
Jill Krutchik May 04, 2011 at 04:57 PM
I watched the news conference with both my 14 year old and my 10 year old. When the speech was over I said that I thought President Obama's speech was amazing. My 10 year old agreed and then admitted he "didn't understand most of it." While my 14 year old and I have had follow up discussions about several related issues (our inability to comprehend the "conspiracy theoriests", my discomfort with the public joy and chanting of "USA" which seemed to me like bloodlust and what we saw as a positive reaction to 9/11, OBL burial at sea), my 10 year old is happy to only skim the surface.
Andrea May 04, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Very much agreed. "We will only have peace when we stop the cycle of jubilation over acts of violence." I told my kids that the behavior shown outside the White House was inappropriate. Bin Laden was no doubt responsible for orchestrating the deaths of innocent people around the world. He was evil and the leader of hatred and terrorism. We should be relieved that he can no longer cause more harm. But since when is an assassination, regardless of how "evil" someone is, reason for celebration? The way Americans acted Sunday night was arrogant and out of character for a country priding itself on being bigger and better. That's what I told my kids, but I'm not sure they fully understood when their Facebooks and the kids at school are showing so much pride.
Jenny Schiff May 04, 2011 at 06:22 PM
While the celebrating does seem distasteful, I understand the desire for people to gather together to mark the end of an era for our country, even if it's mostly symbolic. Osama Bin Laden has been synonymous with evil and 9/11 for almost 10 years and it's gratifying for people to know that if you attack innocent people, sooner or later you will face justice. My kids heard about Bin Laden's death and know the basics of 9/11 but it really didn't seem to affect them. I try to tell them the truth in a way they can understand, without giving them too many details.
Susan Spillman May 04, 2011 at 09:08 PM
My son, 15, was the first to hear the news via facebook and told us. He comprehends the news but my daughter, nine, has not watched any of the cheering and knows only the bare basics that a bad guy who hated Americans was killed. 9/11 was my son's first day of kindergarten ten years ago. At the time we did not give him any details, other than a plane crashed into the World Trade Center and many people were killed It wasn't until several years later when we were living in the suburbs of Washintington, D.C. where many of his new friends kids had closer experiences with 9/11 that he learned the entire story. I think it's a matter of age. I would rather shield a younger child from knowing the extend of any sort of horrible news.
Cassandra M. Bellantoni May 05, 2011 at 12:16 AM
It's very important to tell your children the truth but temper your words to their age level. I had one rule as a mom — with my now 31-year old daughter and that was to never lie to her. She was a bright kid so there were plenty of questions that made me uncomfortable. At the end of the day, I gained her never-ending respect and trust because I didn't ever lie to her and she knew it without a doubt. This benefit was worth the uncomfortable moments of her teens. The saying "the truth shall set you free," is absolutely correct. When it comes to celebrating the death of someone such as Osama bin Laden, I do believe this is a teachable moment about fear. Isn't it the weakness of humanity to be hypocritical and barbaric at times? This is a time when you can teach your children about the dangers of human fear, from the terror OBL brought to this nation on September 11, to the irrational war waged on Iraq, the loss of constitutional rights and the closure OBL's death may bring to some people who have been afraid for a long time. It's all about FEAR. You can still teach that killing is wrong and you can explain the on of the worst weaknesses of humanity at the same time.
Marianne Love May 05, 2011 at 08:27 AM
The way you should approach the subject of Osama bin Laden's killing with your children is with truth and openness, but at an age-appropriate level. If they ask questions, try to be honest and give them your viewpoint. Then, ask them what they think, what might be upsetting or concerning to them and go from there. While the 10 commandments say "Thou shall not kill," the Dalai Lama put it so succinctly earlier this week. Speaking to about 3,000 students at the University of Southern California, the 75-year-old Tibetan leader was quoted as saying as a human being, bin Laden may have deserved compassion and even forgiveness , however, forgiveness doesn't mean forget what happened. And, we all know the terror bin Laden spewed throughout the world, That, too, is also against Bible and Muslim teachings. So tread carefully, address the children's concerns and keep an ongoing open dialogue with them.


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