When Talking to Children About War, Keep it Simple

KNOXVILLE – Children-s concerns about war and terrorism often center on fears for their own safety, a professor of child and family studies at the University of Tennessee said recently.

Dr. Priscilla Blanton said preschool children are looking for reassurance and a sense that their safety is not in question.

-In speaking to them, it-s important to be genuine and honest,” Blanton said. “You can-t tell them there is no danger, but you can tell them that they can count on you to make sure they are safe.-

Blanton said school-age children may have more philosophical questions about the place of war in life.

-They question how you fit the notion of war into issues of inclusiveness and fairness and justice,” she said. “Cognitively, they tend to view the world from a black and white, rule-oriented perspective.

-It-s very hard to explain to children that no one sees war as a good alternative, and it-s also very hard to explain what makes it an acceptable alternative. These are complex questions.-

Blanton said parents can -take their cues from the kinds of concerns the children express. If they-re not terribly anxious about it, you don-t want to create more anxiety.-

She urges parents to monitor the flow of information children receive from television and other media.

-They don-t have the cognitive skills to understand a lot of this information. It can generate fear if they can-t process what they-re hearing.-

The key element in managing children-s anxieties about war is open communication, Blanton said.

-The most important thing is for the child to know that their concerns are important to you. That is more meaningful in the long run than the information you give them.-