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Talking To Kids About War
the War and What They Hear in the Media
Your children are hearing the news about American soldiers
abusing Iraqi prisoners. Undoubtedly, they will be confused
because our armed forces are supposed to be the 'good
if you intercept the news, the media is everywhere.
What children don't hear from the media, they will hear
in school, from their friends, and on the street. The
impact this news will have on them is enormous, frightening
for Explaining What They Hear
- Explain that most of our armed forces are the 'good
guys' and that the few who are committing these horrific
acts of abuse are wrong and will be punished.
Explore the age appropriateness of the news you allow
your children to see. Children under the age of 8 should
be completely shielded from graphic violent images -
Kids 8 and under can't differentiate between fantasy
violence and real horror.
Keep the television and radio news off when kids are
around and do not leave newspapers in the open
Be on the alert about the Internet - Home pages of your
Internet Service Provider could have a clip or graphic
images of the beheading and other abuses.
Create an open dialogue. Tell your kids 10 and up your
version of the news. You want them to hear it from you
because they will hear it from others.
- Share your feelings about the news you see
- Let your kids know the difference between news and
Explore the facts with your child
Acknowledge the complexity of the news
our children had to deal with the shock of the September
11th terrorist attacks ... now they have war to deal
we face difficult times it is imperative that we do not
overlook our children who are frightened and scared. And
we must not overlook our children who are at risk and
peril on a daily basis
and at even greater risk
in times of stress.
traumatic impact of war has overwhelmed our nation.
No matter what
our beliefs are - we must support our troops and we
must pay even more attention to our children. We must
be there for them, to answer questions, to show love,
caring and support ... we must ease their fears.
children will be affected by the war - through their
parents, their friends, or the media. Some will have
friends whose parents, relatives, or neighbors are at
war. Some children won't know anyone, or have reactions
to the war at all. They may feel safe in their homes
and communities. Young children, particularly, may not
understand adult reactions. It is important to reassure
children of their safety at this time.
with the experts, we offer you this information to help
you help your children.
Discussing war with kids is a difficult subject because
your childs reaction to war will depend on their:
· Personality and Temperament
· Stage of Development
No matter what you do
always tell your kids the
truth and always reassure them!
· Talk to kids in very concrete terms. Tell them
that some people, not all people in the
world are bad and that there is a bad man in another country
trying to hurt our countrys security.
Show them a globe or map and point out
Iraq. Then show them where they live and how
far away the bad man is from them. Assure your
kids that the war is not in their neighborhood.
· Keep your kids away from the TV news reports as
much as possible
· By showing your kids you are not obsessed with
war, they wont be
Kids in this age group usually understand the difference
between reality and fantasy however, in times
of stress will likely listen to rumors, over exaggerate
events in the news and envision the conflict
closer to home.Talk to your kids about what is happening,
and be honest. Do not go into any unnecessary details ...
it could scare them.
School - High School Kids:
· This age group is usually intrigued by political
and philanthropic events and activities and
feel they need to take action. Partner with your kids and
make them feel a part of what is going to happen
and how you feel.
· Work together on solutions for a family plan.
Some children will be more fearful than others. They will
also take their lead from you. If you are not overly fearful
they shouldnt be either. Whereas some kids are very
fearful, others will be on denial and become immune.
· Kids relate to issues in their own lives. Young
children may become more clingy and ask
questions about kids they see on the news who may be alone.
· Middle school kids are involved with peer struggles
and are interested in fairness and punishment.
· Older kids and teens may demonstrate more aggressive
behavior, and become contemplate life and
their own priorities and interests.
The most important thing you can do for your children during
this period of worry and uncertainty is to communicate with.
Discharge false rumors by asking what they have heard from
others or in school, and making sure their
children know the truth about the situation.
· Tell your children there are two sides to the situation.
Whether they disagree with it or not, explain
there is a positive side to the war effort.
· Encourage your kids to speak about what theyre
feeling. It is damaging for them to keep
· Use language and always discuss everything that
is age appropriate for your child.
· If your child doesnt want to discuss what
is happening, they may not be ready.
· Ask children what theyve heard before beginning
your talk with them
· Never dismiss a childs fear
· Be alert to your childs facial and verbal
expressions, as well as posture and behavior
· Always be available for questions, talks, etc.
A good opportunity to talk is when watching
· Maintain normal routines to make your kids feel
· Explore positive ways of coping to allay your childrens
· Reassure safety measures and how people are protected
· If your kids ask what-if be honest
and let them know that many people are working
to ensure violent events dont reoccur
· Always be attentive to your childs needs,
fears, and questions
child will have their own unique style of processing
and coping. Some may experience sleep problems, nightmares,
bed-wetting, anxiety, aggressive behavior, problems
with schoolwork, excessive worry, baby talk, inappropriate
behavior, avoidance of school or social contacts, unexplained
physical complaints, etc. It is important for parents
to recognize warning signs.
and Loving Your Children
kids cope with war and fear of terrorism, it is critical
for parents to nurture their children and show them
they are loved. Give them extra attention and continual
support. Be there for them by being attentive and available.
Hugging your children often gives them a sense of security
In the Armed Forces
kids have a parent or close relative involved in the
war, they may feel a greater sense of anxiety and grief,
feeling lonely and abandoned.
its difficult for the parent at home, they should
try not to show their sadness and keep the parent who
is serving our country present in their childs
life. Bring children to a state of normalcy as quickly
are all going through this together and during times
of stress and overwhelm we must be there for our children.
It is also essential that we do not take out our frustrations
on our children. And for those kids who live in abusive
homes and who are at great risk themselves, we must
reach out and offer help to both parent and child.
be afraid to talk with your child about war and terrorism
Be open, honest, clear and accurate. Children
do not benefit from 'not thinking about it' or 'putting
it out of their minds.' It is important, however, how
you talk about this. Your children will hear some of your
conversations with friends, family and your spouse. They
may be hearing some of what is on the news because you
have on the TV. It is important to make sure that you
talk with your child. You should be the healthy filter
of information for your child.
out what your child thinks and feels
An important first step in talking with your child
is to find out what they have heard and how they feel
about that. Young children often make false assumptions
about the causes of major events. Often these distortions
will magnify his or her sense of fear and make your child
more likely to have persisting emotional or behavioral
problems. Correct their misperceptions with simple, age-appropriate
your childs lead on when, what and how much to say
After you have some sense of what your child knows and
how they feel, gauge your answers to their concerns. You
do not need to be too detailed or comprehensive. In fact,
you may find that the child just acts disinterested or
seems to ignore what you are saying. If you let the child
control when you discuss this directed by their
questions you will find that you will have many,
many short discussions and not one big talk.
These little discussions make it easier for the child
to digest this huge emotional meal.
Dont feel that you have to have all the answers
Some aspects of this will forever remain beyond understanding.
You can explain that you just dont know and
that sometimes we will never know why some things happen.
Help teach them that hate can lead to senseless cruelty.
If your child sees that you struggle to make sense of
this, their own struggle to do so becomes easier. And
when they see you continue to be a solid and caring parent
even when you dont have the answers - they
actually feel safer. The unknown becomes a less frightening
Reassure your child
Many children and -- many adults are frightened.
The war has shattered our sense of safety. Your child
may have fears about personal safety. Reassure your child.
Your home and community are safe. Steps are being taken
to make things safer.
Limit your childs exposure to media coverage
Watching the images of this over and over only wont
help your child. In fact, it may make this worse for them.
Young children are very vulnerable to this. Children six
and under may actually think that there are bombs going
off in their yard. If they do watch the news, watch with
them and then discuss it. Ultimately, the goal is to decrease
the traumatic power of these images and that is very difficult
when the images permeate the media.
Resume normal patterns of activity at home as soon
It is helpful to keep routines. If these events disrupt
the family structure, events it can be even more disturbing
for children. The sooner there is a familiar structure
and predictability to your childs life, the sooner
she or he will feel safe. When traumatic events disrupt
a childs life, the harder it is to recover.
Anticipate some regressive behaviors following
When children feel overwhelmed, confused, sad or fearful,
they will often regress. And
so do adults. You may see a variety of symptoms in your
child: these include anxiety (or fearfulness,) sadness,
difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, increased impulsivity
or aggression. These symptoms are usually short-term (days
or weeks) and tend to resolve with reassurance, patience
and nurturing. When children feel safe, they will be most
likely start to "act their age."
Some children will be more vulnerable than others
Not all children will react to these events in the same
way. Some children may seem disinterested and, no changes
in their behaviors will be noticed. Other children may
have profound symptoms that seem out of proportion to
their real connection to these events. We can not predict
how a given child will react but we do know that children
with pre-existing mental health or behavioral problems
are more likely to show symptoms. We also know that the
closer a child is to the actual traumatic event (i.e.,
if a loved one was injured or killed) the more severe
and persisting the symptoms will be.
Your reactions will influence your childs reactions
Your child will sense emotional intensity around them
and will mirror your emotional responses and interpretations.
Younger children will try to please you sometimes
by avoiding emotional if they sense that it may upset
you. Try to gauge your own sense of discomfort and directly
address this with the child. Children find it reassuring
that they are not alone in some of their emotional upset.
Make sure they hear, many times, that even though it may
be upsetting it is still important to share feelings and
thoughts with each other.
Don't let anger be misdirected
Dont let your frustration, anger and rage be misdirected.
hesitate to get more advice and help
If you feel overwhelmed or if you see persisting problems
with your child dont hesitate to reach out for help.
Additional resources to help you teach your children to
cope with war:
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