In a world where wars still happen, our kids are bound to ask questions about them. As parents, we want to shield our children from fear and keep them safe and happy.
But the truth is, they’ll learn about wars sooner or later, from school, friends, or the internet. Even though it’s tough, especially when we’re scared ourselves, there comes a time when we have to talk to our kids about scary stuff like war.
So, how do we have these hard talks?
How can we make sure our kids feel secure, loved, and not too worried in a world that can sometimes be unsettling and uncertain? Let’s go over some important tips as we dive into discussing war with our precious little ones.
Think about how old your child is:
Every child is different, so it’s important to consider their age when you talk about big events like war. Younger children might not fully understand what’s going on. UNICEF, which helps kids around the world, says parents should talk calmly and pay attention to their own body language. Kids can pick up on how we’re feeling by looking at our faces and actions.
Stay on top of the news:
If there’s going to be a lot of news about war or conflict, and you know your child might hear about it, try to be the one to tell them.
Dr. Harold Koplewicz, who is a child psychologist, suggests that parents should explain things to their kids before they stumble upon scary headlines or hear about them from someone else.
He says you shouldn’t wait to tell your children about what’s happening. You should share the facts, even if they’re sad, and set the right emotional tone.
Let the news sink in before having the Big Talk.
After you’ve given your kids some basic information about war, take a little time before having a deeper talk about it.
Ask them if they’ve heard anything, especially since social media can show them distressing images. Also, give yourself a moment to manage your own emotions.
Talking about such a big and scary topic like war isn’t the right time to work through your feelings, according to Dr. Deborah Gilboa, who is a board-certified family physician.
Let them ask questions.
Let your kids ask questions. Kids are pretty smart, and you can follow their lead based on how they ask questions. Try to answer honestly but don’t give them too much detailed or graphic stuff, especially if it’s not right for their age.
Jamie Powers, who works with kids at the Center for Children & Families, suggests this approach.
It can feel like walking on a tightrope, but the way you explain war to your kids can shape how they see the world later on.
With that in mind, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) says parents should avoid making generalizations about people based on their race, nationality, or religion. Instead, use this as a chance to teach your children about tolerance and how to avoid prejudice.
Don’t minimize their fears.
When kids ask tough questions like, “Am I safe?” or “Are we all going to die?” it can be really hard to answer. But it’s important to let them know that it’s okay to ask these questions. The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that parents should reassure their kids that they are safe, stay calm, and tell them that it’s absolutely fine to have these worries.
Provide support by keeping the teacher, family, and friends in the loop about what you’re talking to your child about. Try to limit the violent or upsetting images your child sees on TV or online.
If you notice signs of stress or if your child is fixating too much on violent things, it’s a good idea to contact a mental health professional, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).
Avoid spreading stigma.
When we talk about conflict and war, it can sometimes lead to stereotypes and discrimination. People might say things like “bad people,” which doesn’t help anyone.
UNICEF suggests we should focus on the people who are affected by the war and encourage compassion. Think about those who have to leave their homes or the organizations trying to help those in need.
No one wants children to worry about war, but the best thing we can do is give them the tools to handle this information as best they can. We should approach it with care, thoughtfulness, and honesty.
In the complex world we live in, the need to discuss challenging topics like war with our children can be unavoidable. By taking a thoughtful and compassionate approach, we can empower our kids to navigate these conversations with understanding and resilience. Remember, it’s essential not to underestimate their fears, but to reassure them of their safety and encourage their questions.
Support from teachers, family, and friends can help create a united front of care and concern. Keeping a close eye on the media they consume, and being mindful of potential signs of stress, ensures we’re in the best position to help them.
Above all, let’s avoid spreading stigma and generalizations about people in times of conflict. Instead, focus on the human side of the story, fostering empathy and compassion for those affected by war.
By following these guidelines and addressing these difficult conversations with honesty and love, we equip our children to better understand and cope with the world’s complexities, helping them feel safe and cared for even when faced with challenging realities.