Explaining War To Your Children - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

March 18, 2003

Explaining War To Your Children

As America stands on the brink of war, our youngest generation is asking questions and trying to grasp the how and why of what could be another defining, but difficult moment in U.S. history.

Cedarcrest Elementary 3rd grade teacher Jan Marino says, "I notice with the boys it's about bombs and guns. The girls are more interested in why we have to do this."

Specialists say children need to have an understanding about what's really happening, or their exaggerated fears may cause emotional damage. Experts warn parents and teachers must customize these discussions based on the child's age. They say pre-schoolers may confuse fact with fantasy and fear. They probably don't realize a single incident can be re-broadcast, so they may think it's happening repeatedly. Furthermore, they could be to young to verbalize these worries, so parents need to watch for tell-tale signs.

"If they're young, their behavior may regress. There may be bed-wetting or anger that seems inappropriate," said Prevention Specialist Becky Young Maddocks. Maddocks also recommends parents clarify definitions with younger children. For instance, the very young may think the "serial killer" is associated with what they eat for breakfast.

They say although elementary students can understand the difference between fantasy and fact, they may later confuse it when they're stressed or afraid - possibly thinking the war is nearby.

Teenagers will likely ask more detailed questions about the war and will express a personal position or take a stand. No matter what the age, it's important for parents to emphasize their child's personal environment is safe. After all, the children are the reason American lives are on the line.

For more tips about how to talk to your children during these tough times click on the links below.

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