Helping Children Cope With War

War is a very traumatic experience for both adults and children. Kids, however, often have a more difficult time coping with the effects of war. As parents and teachers, there are some things that can be done to help children cope and deal with war. Addressing the topic of war with kids is very important, so they are aware of the reasons behind it as well as the many consequences associated with it.

  • Know what kids ask about – Each age group of children have different questions about war. For example, preschoolers will have very little knowledge of what the war is and how it will affect them while high school kids are typically more interested in the dynamics of war, and often want to know how the troops are affected. By knowing what different age groups are concerned about, it can be addressed much better.
  • Communication is key – With the help of books and educational materials parents and teachers can communicate with children about war. By doing a few new routine activities, parents can help children feel safe and secure.
  • Coping and mental health – There are many ways to get through the stress of war and terrorism. It is important that kids’ mental health is protected, so talking about it and educating children about war is essential.
  • Teachers can help – As an educator, it’s important to be able to talk with class members of all ages. There are many different lesson plans, discussion points, and helpful advice that teachers can use to make children feel more confident and understand things during times of war.
  • What can be done – Small steps can help to protect children from too much trauma when there is so much media and attention given to war. Limiting television time, and watching how children are behaving are just two examples of how to be proactive.

No two kids are alike, and this is also true in instances of the ages of children and how they deal with war. All age groups handle war and the subject of terrorism differently, so it’s important to be able to acknowledge these differences. Grade school kids will often want to know about the details of war such as the details and weaponry used, while younger children often want to know about family members involved or the family members of friends.

  • Educate kids about war – The World War II Museum is just one example of the hundreds of war related museums across the country that can help children better understand the policies and history behind war. When kids learn about war, they have a better understanding and can feel a bit more confident.
  • TV should be limited – There have been countless studies that show television has a profound effect on kids, especially during tragic times such as 9/11. As a parent, try to limit their exposure to television, particularly the news.
  • Military kids need special attention – Many children have parents who are in the armed forces. They often have to deal with their parents being deployed and live with the fear of them possibly not returning. It’s important that adults are sensitive to these kids and their needs.
  • Talk to your kids – There really is no better weapon than talking to your kids about war to help prevent them from becoming overwhelmed or act out their fears.
  • Be honest – Do not “sugar coat” what is happening in the world. Honesty is the best policy, although there are ways to talk about it without scaring children. It is very important that parents tell their kids the truth about what is going on and not leave out some of the basic realities.

Teenagers might be the most difficult age group to deal with when it comes to war. They often think about the more brutal aspects of war such as the bloodshed and death involved. Letting teens have their own opinions and express themselves is essential.

  • Preparation – Talk to teens about the war as it’s happening, and feel free to discuss policy and use open discussion. Get their honest opinions and don’t shy away from telling them how you feel as well. Creating an open dialogue is important so they feel like they have a say in the matter.
  • Realize the importance – While many adults think cell phones and clothes are top on their teens’ list of priorities, recent polls have shown that they really are concerned with the war and its repercussions. Understand that this is an important topic for teens, and it needs to be addressed.
  • Coping with family members in the war – A lot of military parents have teenagers at home. This can be a very difficult time as it is for teens, but having a parent overseas is just another added hurdle. Be sensitive to teenagers and middle school aged kids who have parents away fighting for the country.
  • Get involved – Show kids how they can get involved, whether it’s through writing, sharing stories and opinions, or helping the soldiers in some way.