How to Talk to Kids About War

Children see the world differently than adults, so we need to be prepared to answer their difficult questions. When they feel scared,it is important to remind them that no matter how bad things seem, there are always positive things happening and decent people who are doing good things.

All Children

  • Be with your children as much as possible.
  • Ask - don't assume you know - about their understanding of the events.
  • Validate feelings that your children share with you as real, ensure they understand that there are no wrong feelings, and tell them that you have similar feelings.
  • When they ask about their safety, explain that you as a parent will do everything you can to keep them safe. Address their specific concerns.
  • It is all right to say you don't know why there is war.
  • If children have questions about the safety of their school, explain that parents, teachers and school officials are doing everything possible to keep them safe. Address their specific concerns.

Children may exhibit some of the following behaviors during stressful times:

  • Regression - acting younger and seeking attention.
  • Becoming more clingy.
  • Having difficulty sleeping.
  • Being more temperamental, or making angry comments.
  • Talking about acts of violence.
  • Playing war games or acting more aggressively.

All of these reactions are normal. It is important to keep talking to your children and allow them to express all of their feelings.

Infants

  • Infants pick up on the anxieties and actions of those around them, so remain calm when interacting with your infant. Keep routines and their environment consistent. Infants may be fussy in reaction to anxieties around them.

Toddlers

  • Keep routines consistent.
  • TV and radio news exposure should be limited and only in the presence of an adult. Offer videos to watch, read books and play with your child.
  • If a toddler asks questions about what is going on, answer in simple terms. Make sure your child knows that you are there to keep him or her safe.

Preschoolers

  • TV and radio news exposure should be limited and only in the presence of an adult.
  • If your preschooler asks questions about what is going on, answer in simple terms. Make sure your child knows that you are there to keep him or her safe.
  • Spend extra time hugging and cuddling your child. Your child may want to sleep in your bed, which may be a good way to make your child feel comfortable and safe.
  • Play with your child. Connect with friends, or organize a play group.
  • Do some type of special activity together. Watch a movie, play a game, bake cookies.

School-Age Children

  • TV and radio news exposure should be in the presence of an adult.
  • Give children plenty of opportunities to talk about what they think is going on, and clear up any misconceptions.
  • Encourage children to share their feelings and concerns with you. Let them know it's all right to be afraid and that you will do everything you can to keep them safe.
  • Be available, as this age group may be more interested than younger children in the events but less capable then older children of coping and communicating.
  • Reassure kids that many people are keeping them safe and that your family is safe.
  • Offer special activities or games to them.

Adolescents

  • Listen, listen, listen.
  • Watch TV news with them.
  • Engage your adolescent in healthy conversation. "What do you think about the events that are taking place in our world today?" "How did you feel when you first heard we were at war?" "Do any of your friends have family members in Iraq?
  • Share your feelings with them honestly.
  • Encourage them to express feelings of anger, and brainstorm with them about how they can deal with those feelings.
  • Let them know they are safe.