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Talking to Your Kids about War and Violence

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on making those tough yet important talks with your kids about war and violence.

Emotions at Home During the War on Iraq
Talking To Children About Violence

Emotions at Home During the War on Iraq

With the war in Iraq underway we are all searching for ways to deal with our own emotions and the feelings of our children and grandchildren. As a family and a nation it's a time to gather together and support each other.

I recently heard on NBC that this will be the most televised war in history. How do we deal with war coverage in our homes? If we so wanted, we could watch the war coverage on television 24 hours a day. This is not healthy for any of us, particularly children. As adults we want to know what is going on, but we have to balance that with too much exposure.

Try to limit kid's television viewing during the war. Often children do not understand how far away the war is, and even the older ones who logically know it's not near home, will have dreams that it is. Talk about what is happening being as nonpolitical as possible, using terms they will understand. Kids are not liberal or conservative-they are just kids! Talk about our brave troops, pray for them if this is a family practice. But again, keep the war exposure to a minimum for kids. Let them ask questions and give them simple answers. Hug them and let them know that you love them and that things will be okay. This may seem simplistic but it's what they need. You know your kids-watch for nightmares, acting out, outward stress signals such as hives and be extra attentive if they ask questions or express a concern. You've been through 9-11, so you can use that experience to judge what worked and what didn't as far as dealing with the feelings that terrorism threats and war can bring out in our children. Find out what they are doing at school too. You want to know what is being talked about when you aren't with your children!

Because we're limiting our television viewing, I have some websites I use to keep updated during the day:

Let's all be aware that tensions around the country and in our homes are going to be high. People are emotional and some are angry for various reasons, but everyone is feeling some kind fear, frustration or sadness.

Remember this when you are dealing with the people around you. Tempers may flare over things unrelated to the war because people are on edge and may not be dealing with their emotions. Children aren't the only ones who don't know how to properly express themselves! So, be a little more patient and take things with a grain of salt. Sometimes just a smile or kind word can diffuse a situation.

Try to keep your routines as you always have. Your children will feel safer and happier if you are doing things as you always have and it will help you as well. I know we all hope that peace will come quickly. Now, regardless of our political views, is a time to come together and support our troops, our families and our community.
Source: Brenda Hyde is a wife and mom to three. She's also a freelance writer and editor of Old Fashioned Living. You'll find more articles and support at oldfashionedliving.com

Talking To Children About Violence

Violence in society is a major issue for families today. It's everywhere we look, it seems, and as a parent it disturbs me deeply. Recent television and internet broadcasts of the Iraq war fill our children's minds with fear and confusion. Part of the job of parenting is to protect our children from the ills, if not the evils of the world, but what do you do when it comes looking for you.

It would be easy to wait until our children bring up the issue and not take a lead role in discussing violence with them. Unfortunately, too many children take in the information, attempt to process it with their limited experience and understanding, and never say a word to an adult. Just because they don't initiate, doesn't mean that parents shouldn't. For these children, talking about the violence may relieve feelings of anxiety and insecurity they were bottling up inside. Children get their sense of safety from the attitudes and behaviors of adults, primarily parents. How we act and talk will have a direct impact of the emotional well being of children.

The first step to talking to children about violence is to acknowledge their thoughts and feelings about the violence. The best way is the simplest: Ask them what they think or feel. This will give parents a barometer about where the child is at and what concerns need to be addressed. Demonstrate that you are willing to hear it and give your child full attention without judgement. Too many parents are quick to jump into a child's comments and make them seem invalid. A parent might dismiss their child's fears as unnecessary: "You shouldn't feel that way" or "You don't need to worry about that." A parent might even reply that the child is being silly, stupid, or overreacting for what they are thinking and feeling. This is a sure method to get a child to shut down emotionally and not communicate with a parent, now and in the future. Get on a child's level by sitting or kneeling down when talking to them. And get rid of any distractions (i.e., turn off the television or radio). Make the conversation about them.

The second step is to clarify and/or reflect back a child's comments. For example, a parent might say, "Tell me more about your fears of someone killing you" or "What do you mean you think the world is going to end." This also communicates to a child that what they have to say is important and not trivial. It makes parents more aware of the underlying issues. If a child's comments are clear then repeat back to the child what you heard them say. Don't be a parrot; just summarize it, so that you and the child are on the same ground mentally.

The third step is to share your feelings and value about the violence. This means you must be aware of what they are before you ask your child to share. How do you feel about the violence? What is your value-system about killing, death, and violence? Is it a social, moral, or relational issue for you or does it encompass all three. Once you are aware of where you stand, you can communicate this with your child. Share in a direct, simple, and honest manner. How you say something may be more important than what you say. But be sure to say it in a matter of fact way.

What you say will vary depending on your values and the age of your child. Young children have difficulty separating reality from fantasy and it may be important to describe the difference. For example, a parent of a young child might state: "I know that the cartoons you watch sometimes have characters who shoot one another but that is not real. In real life, when someone gets shot they get hurt and they might even die." Avoid in-depth explanations for younger children. They will lose attention and not be able to process long descriptions. One to two sentences are more than enough. Additionally, parents can use drawings and children's book about fighting, violence, etc. Always follow up with reassurances that you love them, will do your best to care and protect them, and that they are safe.

Older children may be able to verbalize their thoughts and feelings more distinctly but don't let that be an excuse not to talk about it. Use the same principles as with younger children but feel free to talk more deeply about the violence. Watch the news report together or read the newspaper article out loud, pausing to discussing thoughts and feelings. Ask them if they know of anyone who has been the victim of violence. The older they are the more likely they will know or have heard of someone. Talk about violence that has occurred towards them or in their daily life, such as school. Guide the older child toward your values without forcing them on them or telling them how they should believe. And look at ways to get involved in your community or through national relief efforts to help victims of violence. Being proactive will give a child a sense of power versus powerlessness.

What we say to children is important and we must say something. Sticking our heads in the sand will not improve the situation. Actually, ignoring or dismissing the topic of violence will increase a child's anxiety and fears. But even more importantly, how we talk about violence will have profound impact on our child's sense of self, their understanding of right from wrong, and their relationship with the parent.
Source:  Ron Huxley is a licensed child and family therapist, author of the book Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting, and father of four. Get more info on Ron and request an online consult or media interview at parentingtoolbox.com/ron.html

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In violence we forget who we are. - Mary McCarthy

Disclaimer - Information is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. Any medical decisions should be made in conjunction with your physician. We will not be liable for any complications, injuries or other medical accidents arising from or in connection with, the use of or reliance upon any information on the web.

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