How Do You Talk to Children about War?

Photo: upenn.edu

By Agenda Pais (El Mostrador)

HAVANA TIMES – Even though adults try not to expose children to certain images or conversations, they can end up accessing this information online or via third parties.

After spending over two years in lockdown because of a global pandemic that sparked great fears among the general population, the world is now witnessing Russia’s war against Ukraine. In such extreme situations, it’s hard for children not to catch onto anything by chance; while parents and guardians try not to expose them to conversations and images about this war, children may find out on their own online or via third parties.

According to psychologist Claudia Sepulveda, with experience working with children and teenagers, hearing words such as “war”, “bombing” or “invasion”, have different connotations for children and adults, of course. “The former live in a healthy world, of safe spaces, where you play, share with others; so if they hear about war, they may be afraid and this threatening feeling may affect their mood. That’s when it’s important for adults to give them faith, security, and calm,” the expert says.

In this regard, the psychologist adds that while children in the Western world aren’t directly living in conflict areas, we must always keep an eye on what children and young people consume online and on TV; even more so, considering how the COVID-19 pandemic has already set a precedent in children’s mental health. “War may reinforce the idea in children that the world may not be as safe as it once was, and so we have to observe them to determine whether they respond with anger to something. On the other hand, we need to know how to talk to them in the case they do want to talk about the situation,” Sepulveda warns.

Thus, the professional from the Monteverde Center at the Puertas de Chicureo Commercial Center delivers a series of recommendations to learn to deal with children when they are afraid or anxious.

“It’s a good idea to establish an exercise or relaxation routine with meditations that include imagination, that is to say, for the children to imagine a safe world where they can see colors, people playing musical instruments in a happy place and smell sweet things; this will let the experience seep into their subconscious,” Claudia points out for starters.

“On the other hand, adults need to transmit feelings of security and explain to children that there are groups always looking for solutions to conflict in any kind of crisis, whether this is between people or countries. Also, reinforce for them the fact that these events are temporary and that many children are being protected in safe spaces,” she adds.

Within this context, it’s important to use age-appropriate language and give them security when talking about these issues.

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