Helping Kids Cope With War
As war in Iraq continues, many parents are trying to explain the conflict to their children and help them to feel safe and secure during such a difficult time.
John Fairbank, Ph.D., associate professor of medical psychology in the department of psychiatry and social services at Duke University Medical Center, says fear and anxiety are natural for children in uncertain times.
"Children are worried about their safety and security," says Fairbank, who serves as co-director of the UCLA-Duke University Coordinating Center for the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. "Right now, children are experiencing some fear and anxiety about the current situation and what it means for them and their families."
Fairbank offers several tips for parents to help them help their children understand the war and cope with their anxieties.
- Listen to what your children have to say about the war and observe their behavior. Don't force them to talk, but be prepared to answer their questions about the war and terrorism. Think about what you're going to say in advance and have a good understanding of your own views.
- When you talk with your kids about the war, don't go into unnecessary detail that may frighten them. This is a good idea with any pre-adolescent, but is particularly true for very young children.
- Listen to their worries and try to reassure them that they and their friends and families will be safe. You might want to show them Iraq's location on a globe or map, to illustrate that the fighting is taking place in a country very far from them.
- Try to maintain a regular family routine.
- Monitor your children's viewing of news programs, so that they're not constantly exposed to TV coverage of the war.
- Once children can overcome their fears, try to involve them in helping others. Once a child is feeling more safe and secure, Fairbank says they often will begin to think about what they might be able to do to help our soldiers and what they might be able to do after the war to help families and children in Iraq.