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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: How to Talk to Children about War

It is not easy to talk to a young child about war and try to explain why some people choose to hurt others. For children, war can be scary. Even more so when they have seen in the media images of pain and suffering that can also affect children.

Such images can cause them fear and insecurity and affect their perception of the world and their place in it, as children and especially the younger ones have not yet sufficiently processed concepts such as death or loss.

However, experts argue that we need to be honest with our children and that we should talk to them about the war according to their age.

First of all, it is good to hear from the children themselves what they know and to start the discussion based on their questions. We encourage the child to express his thoughts or concerns and his feelings in general.

Our answers should depend on his age and it is not bad not to answer a question if we are not sure what to say.

We can research or think about the answer in case our child comes back to the question.

If a small child asks us why there is a war, we can explain to him that although violence is not the best way to resolve a dispute, many times for different reasons some countries decide that a war will help the people of their country and this is what they choose to go to war.

If the children express their fear, we should not downplay it as an emotion but maintain an attitude of acceptance, so that the child can speak honestly, while at the same time we will try to help the child feel safe.

A child who hears on TV that bombs are being dropped or rockets are being fired may not know what is happening in these cases. We can explain to him that all countries are trying to protect their citizens and that there are shelters and other ways to protect people in cities. We can explain to him that war is fought with soldiers and assure him that war is not happening near us and that we are doing everything we can to keep him safe.

It is also important to strengthen the young child’s faith in good and justice by telling him that there are many people around the world who do not want war and who are fighting for peace in all countries.

By no means do we want young children to feel even more afraid of war after such a discussion. It is good not to go into details about the war and its aftermath, but we can refer to people who are being forced to flee their homes and seek a safer life in other countries, and to cultivate the child’s empathy on this issue. It is also very important to help children from an early age to feel grateful for what they have and to focus on the present. This will help them throughout their life in general.

When the child is in adolescence we can talk to him in more detail. The discussion should be open and we should help the child to understand the special conditions and factors that led the countries to war. It is important to highlight the facts and let the teenager express his views on concepts such as justice, peace, and human rights. It is also important not to hide our own feelings about the situation. It is human to feel sad about what is happening, to have questions that we cannot answer, to want to turn off the TV, because we find it difficult to accept so much pain.

Stavroula Tsoutsa is a Certified Holistic Professional Life Coach, ICF ACC, Certified Heartmath Coach/Mentor and Trainer, and Certified Points of You Practitioner.

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