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TALKING ABOUT WAR TO CHILDREN

Much as we may want to shield our children from topics like war and terrorism , the fact is that children will end up hearing about it from the social media, Television , YouTube, newspapers, School assemblies , school projects and peer talk.

So if your child ends up asking you a question about the war between Russia and Ukraine, the best strategy is to answer as honestly as possible.

Ignoring such questions or brushing them under the carpet does more harm in fact.

Responding to their queries with reverts like , “You are just a child / you are too young to talk about war / We will talk about it when you are grown up/ you don’t need to worry about such things ”, does more harm than good.

HOW TO TALK ABOUT WAR TO YOUR CHILD  ?

  • If your Preschooler asks you a question about war , don’t shy away from answering. Try probing them with open ended questions like – Where did you hear about it / What have you heard about war ? . Begin from what they know about it already .

You may explain war as – a situation where two countries are fighting for their land.

Instead of focusing on the geo politics , try to bring the focus on how children in Ukraine are suffering due to this fighting. Shift the focus towards a solution. Have a solution focused approach.

Do not terrorise your child about war. Instead talk briefly about the situation on ground. Talk about the consequences of war . How some people will go hungry , thirsty, without a roof on their head  and without school in case of a war. Avoid gory details about the war.

Age appropriate talk is crucial.

You may use an actual map or a globe  to explain the crisis  to the child.

Avoid watching disturbing visuals of war on television and whatsap , in front of your child.

Assure them that they are safe though children in Ukraine are in pain.

Talk about how people around the world are trying to help the Ukranian children caught in the war. Some are sending food and medicines and some are teaching the children  Online as the schools are closed.

Make your child feel heard and understood . Validation is very important for Preschoolers .

Should we encourage children to pray for those affected ? Yes, we definitely should . At this age , children sincerely believe that prayers are the answers to most problems .

  • Primary school age children , aged say 6 to 10 years will probably want to hear more details .

Technology channels carry a whole lot of information and disturbing visuals which reach your child uncensored. And remember , violence is always attractive to children. They get enamoured with stories about guns, wars and tanks. So you may need to deglamourise this component. Talk real . You may add to the definition of war – as a situation of conflict between countries who fight for their land but it often leads to violence, destruction ,  use of military force.

Again shift the focus towards consequences of war . In addition to scarcity of food, shelter and basic amenities , you may talk a little about the economic impact of the war on world economy . Keep the focus on peaceful resolution of problems. Don’t shy away from admitting that war is a confusing and complicated situation.

You may talk about how the world gets polarised in such situations and political opinions start forming.  Tell them that they will most likely be studying about the Ukraine – Russia conflict in their Social Studies class .

Your child may feel anxious and stressed. They may have heard about Indian students stranded in Ukraine. Talk about how the government is trying their best to bring them home safely.

Use a world map or a globe to explain the  territory conflict to the child.

You may have an opinion on the war , but do not impose your views on the child. Your talk should help shatter stereotypes. Things are not always black and white . War does not mean that all Russian / Ukranian people are bad .

War is the outcome of situations that we are not able to solve amicably . You may round up your talk with your child by probing them on situations where they sort out differences through dialogue . It could be at school or at the playground. Who gets to take the preferred seat in the school bus first  ? Who gets to lead group discussions in class ?

Use it as an opportunity to talk about kindness and co operation building , within family and friends .

A 10 year old is perfectly capable of chalking out a help plan/ reach out plan. Encourage them to think up of ways they can help people in pain . Maybe look up the UNICEF link for support opportunities ?

  • Be ready . Your child may sum up the talk with a tricky statement like – “So the adults failed to find a solution to the problem ?”

In such a case , it is ok to admit that we all make mistakes , at times . Very  sad , but true.

Hope this helps !

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