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Michelle Gottlieb Psy.D., MFT, LPCC
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Talking With Your Kids About War

April 2003

 

There is a war on. Now, I know that you know that, but were you aware that your children also know that there is a war on? I am sure that many of you have noticed that your stress level has risen as the bombing commenced, so has your kids’. It is important that you help your children deal with this stress. It can often impact them more than it will you.

 

First, turn off the TV. It does not help to continually see the war for anyone. Remind your children that their immediate environment is safe. If your older children want to watch the news, watch it with them so that you can immediately answer any questions and be aware if they seem strongly impacted.

 

Ask your children if there is anything about the war that they want to talk about. Ask if they have any questions, but don’t push the issue. Explain what is going on in age appropriate ways. For instance, you will not tell a kindergartner about all of the political ramifications, but I encourage you to do so with your teenager. Use this as an opportunity to teach stress-relieving skills. If you do not have those skills yourself, grab a book or talk with a friend or see a therapist so that you can learn and pass it on to your children. Be aware if your children are acting out or being unusually quiet or aggressive or fearful. These are some of the ways that kids show stress.

 

We all feel better if we have something to do. Help your child to write letters to soldiers or their families, or make care packages or help to send food to refugees. It will probably make you both feel better.

 

Continue to act natural. Do your normal routines. Keep going to baseball practice and piano practice and everything else that you normally do. Routine makes a child feel safe. If someone the child knows is overseas, this will obviously impact the child even more. Allow your child to talk out his or her fears. Be sure to tell your child’s teachers so they will understand what is going on for that child.

 

Most important for the entire family, schedule some extra cuddling time. Some time for the family to just hang together. Play games, go to the park. Rent a fun movie that the entire family can watch, pop some pop corn, and snuggle up together. This will make all of you feel better. Remind your children how much you love them. Remember how much they love you. You will all feel more relaxed.

 

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