families have concerns about the war in Iraq. Adults have
skills that allow them to talk and share
more easily while children may need special attention. With
visions of war on the nightly news like "reality TV," many
children may have heightened sensitivity to the images, and
to others it may
not seem quite real. Regardless, families need to know the
steps to take in order to cope with emotions in a healthy manner.
How to talk to children about war
What should parents consider before talking to
their children about war and terrorism?
special attention to remaining calm when talking with children. Many
families here and abroad are directly affected by the war,
with either family members or friends fighting in Iraq. It
is important for parents to keep their distress and anxiety
under control and reassure children that they are there
to help with any difficult emotions the child may be feeling.
in general, may have many questions about the war that should
be answered simply and directly. Help them understand that
our country's leaders are making decisions to ensure safety
for all of us. Perhaps enlist the help of children to assist
military families in your neighborhood. When children feel
they are helping, their levels of stress are decreased.
children know and understand that war is serious, that it is
not a game, and that it is meant to prevent bad things from
happening in the future. Be sure to speak in age
In what type of setting should the discussion
should create a safe space for a child to openly talk about
feelings of anxiety or fear-for example, at home where
they feel secure.
children should understand war is very serious, but they
should not worry about anything happening close to home.
need to be reassured that they are safe and secure at
children, especially those in school, are already aware
of the war and its implications. Parents and other adults
come into contact with children throughout the day should
monitor rumors and correct misconceptions.
the opportunity of increased exposure to news to discuss
war and make the discussions educational. Let older children
their views and opinions related to the events. Parents
should listen in a respectful manner to the concerns of children,
How should parents explain the current war?
that this is a war against the oppressive regime of Saddam
Hussein and not against all Iraqi people. Parents should emphasize
no person is an "enemy" simply because of
their race, religion, culture, or ethnicity, and all
people should be treated
When should parents be concerned about their
children are particularly vulnerable to stress and
anxiety regarding war, either because they have experienced
or loss, or they already suffer from depression, anxiety,
or other mental health needs.
children who have experienced prior loss may have increased
worries about separation.
of refugee or immigrant families may also experience increased
anxiety related to war. Parents of children of Middle Eastern
descent may need to take some extra time to discuss the war's
impact on relationships with their peers.
and other adults should always keep each child's vulnerabilities
in mind when responding to concerns about the war and
viewing of TV news coverage of the war should be monitored
as it can bring about distress and fear in children.
If children are watching coverage, parents should be available
questions and concerns about what they are seeing.
During wartime, it is important for all families
to stay connected and spend extra time together, even if daily
routines are not directly affected. In a democracy, it is probable
that adults will have differing views and opinions about war;
however, those disagreements should never be discussed in front
of children. Parents and other adults should discuss war concerns
directly and calmly.
Parents and families should review emergency
plans during this time of heightened national security. Parents
should also familiarize themselves with school preparations
Overall, try to maintain a normal routine and
address children's concerns in a caring and respectful manner.
In this uncertain time in our country, many children will have
questions and concerns about what is happening. It is important
that adults address any concerns or feelings of anxiety that
children may feel. Parents and other adults need to realize
that children react to stressful situations in ways sometimes
different than adults.
Fraser, Mark W. (1997). Risk and Resilience in
Childhood: An Ecological Perspective
Washington, DC. NASW
Pender-Greene, M. (2003, March 21). [Personal