Talking to your child about war and conflicts

In a world filled with war and conflict, shielding your child from images and stories of devastated regions can be a challenge. Even if you manage to limit their exposure to social media, schools often become places where these conversations surface. Your children may experience feelings of fear, sadness, despair, and anxiety.
Gain an understanding of how much they know about the situation, where they're getting their information, and how they're feeling about it. (Unsplash)
Gain an understanding of how much they know about the situation, where they're getting their information, and how they're feeling about it. (Unsplash)

Dr. Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi, a Parenting Coach, and Educationist highlights some ways you can provide comfort and support to children during these hard times:

Listen Attentively: Gain an understanding of how much they know about the situation, where they're getting their information, and how they're feeling about it. Choose a comfortable setting, like family time or a meal, and ideally involve both parents in the conversation. Approach the situation in a practical manner without projecting negative emotions. Younger children may struggle to articulate their feelings as effectively as older ones, but encourage any form of expression, be it through drawing or physical gestures like hugging. Avoid minimizing or dismissing their concerns and questions. Respond in a way that makes them feel secure. Adapt your language to suit their age, observe their reactions, and be mindful of their anxiety levels. Reassure your children that they are safe from harm.

Monitor their Information Sources: Refrain from watching distressing content in their presence or reacting to it. Children often take emotional cues from their parents, so do this privately. Ensure they aren't exposed to unsettling images. Opt for reputable news websites or international organizations like the United Nations (UN), and occasionally share positive news with your children to reassure them that authorities are acting. You can't entirely suppress a child's curiosity about these matters, so adult supervision and guidance are crucial in how they consume content.

Address Stigma with Compassion: During times of conflict, prejudice, and discrimination can surface against specific groups or nations. When discussing these matters with your children, try to avoid using terms like "bad people" or "evil". Do not use any slurs to address groups or describe a certain sect of people as problematic. Instead, use the conversation as an opportunity to nurture empathy, especially for families who are forced to leave their homes.

Encourage Acts of Kindness: See if your child is interested in participating in positive activities. They might enjoy creating a peace-themed drawing or writing a poem. Consider joining a local fundraiser or signing a petition together. Even small actions like these can offer significant comfort and a sense of purpose to children. Encourage them to gather essential items to assist other families, particularly children, during times of crisis. Seek out uplifting stories, such as first responders like police, firefighters, and volunteers lending a helping hand, or young individuals advocating for peace, to make them feel like they're contributing to a solution.

Cultivate Empathy and Sensitivity: Even when conflict occurs in a distant place, it can still lead to discrimination closer to home. Ensure your children aren't involved in or witnessing any form of bullying. If they have experienced name-calling or bullying at school, let them know they can talk to you or a trusted adult about it. Reiterate to your children that everyone deserves to feel safe at school and in society. Bullying and discrimination are never acceptable, and it's crucial for each of us to promote kindness and offer support to one another.

Children respond to difficult situations in various ways; some signs of distress may not be immediately apparent. Younger children might become more attached than usual, while teenagers might express intense feelings of grief or anger. Most of these reactions are temporary and are typical responses to challenging circumstances. However, if these reactions persist over an extended period, it may be beneficial to seek specialised support for your child. IANS/KB