How do I talk to my kids about war?
Some kids may not be aware, interested in talking about the war-or not ready to talk about it, that’s okay. You don’t need to push the conversation. They will ask questions or make comments when they are ready.
Prepare yourself. War can be a triggering, overwhelming and an upsetting topic even for adults. Prepare yourself before you speak to your kids. If you’re caught off guard with a question, it’s okay to say, “Yes, there is a war going on, I’m still gathering my thoughts. Let’s talk about this in about 30 minutes.”
Be curious: “What have you heard about it?….hmm, tell me more….”
When you know what your child already knows, it’s a good starting point.
What do I share and what do I avoid?
Be honest, use developmentally appropriate language and content. We don’t encourage minimizing the seriousness of war, but your young child doesn’t need all the graphic details.
Keep it brief and concise. Err on the side of caution, your child will ask questions if they want more info.
Stick to the facts and avoid any kind of predictions.
Resort to your family values about empathy, respect and compassion.
Explain what war is in the general sense: “This can be really confusion, but a war happens when two or more countries disagree about something and in order to protect the future of their country and people they choose to declare war.”
We also want to emphasize that violence and warfare is not the solution to solving disagreements but sometimes wars happens to protect the future of the country.
It’s always okay genuinely say, “ I actually don’t know the answer to that question, I can try to find out”
With older kids (tweens/teens), it’s healthy and okay to hear their opinions and have a robust discussion on their thoughts about current affairs.
Be mindful of inadvertently creating stereotypes. Avoid judgmental generalization of good/bad people groups, share what you know terms of specific people. “The leader of this country is choosing to engage in war with this other country”
For young children, pay attention to how much TV and news media your kids are watching around you. Even when your child seems engaged in an activity with the TV running in the background, they are still listening. Limit TV and media in the home, especially around young children.
Older kids will have a lot more access to the media-encourage them to ask questions and remain open to discussions.
Reassure kids that they are safe. “The war is not happening near us and we are not in any kind of danger”
Opportunities to discuss the following in ages appropriate ways:
+ Compassion for military families, war refugees, immigrant families that experienced war trauma.
+ Helpers: Like Mr. Rogers would say, encourage your kids to look for the helpers (key supportive influencers, human rights activists, social workers, crisis counselors, social organizations, Government officials, Military personnel, etc).
+ How can you help? War, no matter where it’s occurring, can often leave us feeling helpless. Brainstorming ways to show and provide support can be incredibly healing and empowering. Discuss ways to show support in ways that resonate with your family values.
Lastly, check in on your own emotional wellness and monitor your child’s emotional state.
The news about war, the experience and media coverage can all be triggering for many people. It’s normal to feel anxiety, fear of the unknown and pain for lost lives.
If you or a loved one is feeling triggered and has trouble coping with big feelings, reach out to a licensed mental health professional for support.
Counseling with a licensed mental health professional can help you process strong emotions, cope with the unsettling feelings and find ways to manage the anxiety.
At Uplift Counseling Services, we can provide counseling services or Counseling referrals in the community. You can email us: email@example.com
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