Mommy, What Does War Mean?
War is a scary time for all of us, and it can be especially tough on children. How can you comfort them and explain what's going on, without scaring them even more? Robin Goodman, a child psychologist with the New York University Child Study Center, has some answers:How much should I tell my child about the war?
When you're talking to very young children about war, you really want to find out what they're most afraid of. Usually that means finding out that they're worried about you as a parent. The best thing to do is talk to them according to their interest in the topic, as well as their age and personality.
How can I help my child cope with worries and concerns?
Parents want desperately to protect and reassure their children. What you need to do is be honest with your children about what you do know. Talk about the safety measures that you have taken, that the government has taken, that the police in your town have taken. You need to reassure them that you're going to be there to take care of them.
The older a child is, the more able they are to understand some of the real specifics about the war and what's going on. Ask them questions, so you're listening to them more than you're talking to them. You want to answer the specific question that they have, not tell them what you assume they're worried about.
How do I know if my child is worried about the war?
You need to not only listen to your children, but watch them as well. Look for changes in their play and in their behavior—are they fighting more, are they withdrawn? Those are ways that kids communicate about how they're thinking and feeling. They don't just come out and say, "I'm really worried and scared."
More advice from Dr. Goodman
- It's important to be honest, but don't give children more information than they can handle.
- Children pre-school age or younger should not be watching any war coverage at all.
- Grade-school children's viewing of war coverage should be limited and supervised.
For more advice on talking about war with children, visit www.aboutourkids.org.