Conflict with Iraq: When Kids Want Answers
War can be difficult to explain to children.
To help parents handle questions and fears, (Dr. Vicki Panaccione) offers the following suggestions: For children ages 6-12:
1) Ask what they are hearing and discuss their concerns. It’s best not to fill them with fears they don’t have, but also realize you can’t ignore (the ones they do.)
2) Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Avoid saying, “Everything will be OK,” because if something happens, you’ll lose their trust.
3) Help them separate imagined fears from realistic fears. Do this by using lots of visuals, such as maps, to show that Iraq is not right next door.
4) Allow time for play.
5) Give lots of physical affection.
6) Limit newspaper and television visuals about the war, especially for younger children.
For teens ages 13-18:
1) Talk, talk, talk. The more dialogue, the better. Encourage teens to talk about their opinions.
2) Again, make sure your teen has all the facts about the war.
3) Use the experience as a learning tool. Talk about how to cope with differences and conflict.
For all children:
1) Set an example. Parents have to handle their own stress well. Those who don’t, can (negatively) impact how children and teens respond.
2) Look for signs of stress, such as aggressive behavior or depression, and offer ways your (child) can vent frustration.
3) Keep normal routines and rules, and help them feel loved and safe by maintaining routines.
4) Provide constructive outlets for children’s feelings, such as drawing, and writing stories for younger children; for teens encourage involvement in activities or make sure your teen has down time to relax.
As published in Florida Today, Mar. 20, 2003
© MMVI Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D.