The reality of war is the topic even adults find daunting and often forget that our children have far more access to information than we think. Although the outbreak of war is thousands of miles away, with your child’s access to social media, it can seem as if it is happening right outside their door. And while we have recently gone through the trauma of the pandemic with our kids, we will now have to approach the susceptible subject of war.
How to Start the Conversation
More than likely, your child will already be aware of the war from playground chatter, television, social media, or teachers. This being said, it is still very crucial that you as parents have this discussion with your children face to face.
First, it is essential to ask questions rather than directly jumping right into a speech on your political views or graphic details. Choose your words and tone carefully as children are sensitive to this. A calm parent is a calm child.
Also, make sure you have time for this discussion and no distractions, preferably in the comfort of your own home. This will make your child more comfortable opening up and asking any questions bothering them.
Fundamentals to Use in your Talk
Depending on your child’s age and maturity, you will know how much information should be given. For example, a younger child will be confused if you mention sanctions, nuclear war or how governments function.
We suggest the following principles to consider when discussing war with your children.
First, ask questions.
- Make sure your child knows they are in a safe space and that you are ready to be open and honest in answering their concerns.
- Choose questions such as ‘How is this situation making you feel?’ Or ‘Do you have any concerns?’ as this will give the chance to open up more freely.
- Check-in on them at random times to know they are safe and that you acknowledge they might be struggling.
Let Them Guide You and The Topic
- By creating an open-ended atmosphere, your child will feel more comfortable asking questions and, therefore, will guide the conversations as you go.
- Your child will reveal their understanding of the war through these questions, and you will be able to grasp how to answer in the most honest yet appropriate way.
- There are many misconceptions regarding the war, and by checking in with your child regularly, you have the chance to discredit these.
- Try to keep your child’s emotions and feelings above your own opinions on the war.
How Much Information Should you Expose your Children to – Try Stick to The Topic on Hand!
- As much as possible, try to limit their exposure to social media and television. Even though it seems impossible to shelter them from this in this day and age, do what is possible under your control.
- When there is news regarding the war, try to keep the tv on mute. As there are usually graphic images involved, consider switching the tv off completely when possible.
- Your children will be hearing all new kinds of words regarding war. Maybe look up the definitions together to clear any confusion.
- Social media such as TikTok or Facebook give the impression that the war is much closer than reality. Sit with a map or globe and show your children the vast distance between them and the war.
- Ensure you have some idea of who they are following and the misinformation they are exposed to on all social media platforms.
‘Good guys ‘vs Bad guys’
- Avoid classifying either side as ‘Bad Or Good’. This will increase fear and anxiety in your children.
- Teach them that just because there are countries at war does not mean every person in those countries agrees with the war.
- The humanitarian side, such as the organisations, the protestors and the brave people who put their lives at risk to help the victims of war.
- Seek out stories online or on the news that show the positive effect helpers and volunteers have on the people left in the aftermath of war.
- Perhaps discuss as a family how you could contribute or help.
Honesty and Trust When Brining Up “The Topic”
Research shows that understanding and supporting your child’s questions and fears will build trust and security. Children are smarter than we think and deserve and expect honesty. Of course, it is better to tell them you are also unsure and do not know what will happen, but speaking openly about it and doing research together will benefit you and your child.
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