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Saturday, July 20, 2019  

Talking to kids about war implications important in helping them copePublished 3/3/2003

by Mike Lee

War seems imminent. Nerve gas and smallpox could be used against us. All nurses and doctors may some day have to receive a shot that statistics say will kill a small percentage of them.

It’s hard enough for adults to understand, but what about your kids.

With 24-hour news channels devoting programming to the threat of war and the current state of alert mentioned every five minutes, kids are the ones who really don’t understand what’s going on – and the one’s with the biggest fear.

Talking to your kids about the threat of war and the threat that you may face one day as a healthcare professional is important in helping them cope, says Dr Glenn Most, Director of Behavioral Health at Exempla West Pines.

Tidbits scare kids. Something overheard on CNN while walking through the living room can increase the fear level, so don’t allow you kids to spend lots of alone time in front of the TV, Dr. Most said.

Parents should realize their kids are going to hear about the threats and should have answers ready when the questions come.

"First of all you have to accept it’s out there and that the market is saturated with crisis," Dr. Most said. "The reality of it is it’s going to be all over the place. Definitely watch with them. In this day and age it’s easy to put on the TV and walk away."

Don’t leave the TV on all the time. Monitor what your children watch and if you allow your children to watch news programs watch with them so you can answer questions they might have or make observations to help them understand.

"It’s not shielding," Dr. Most said. "But adults get inundated with information, we can just imagine what kids go through."

One of the most basic rules is not to push your kids with a subject they aren’t comfortable with.

Dr. Most said it’s important for parents to gauge their child’s comfort level and level of understanding. In general older kids will be able to comprehend more of what’s going on than the younger ones, but they still have fear.

Adults may have fear, too, but it’s important not to share it with your children. Children take their cues from you.

"Assure them they are safe," Dr. Most said.

Putting things in context when talking to children is another tip, Dr. Most said will help you better explain what our country is facing.

Telling children that the war going on will happen far aware will help alleviate a child’s fear of something bad happening at home or at school.

And it’s a good idea to remind children that we’ve been through war before.

The threat of warfare isn’t unique to this generation. Remind your kids that the U.S. was involved in world wars as well as other threats.

That’s where grandparents and older relatives come in handy. Grandparents faced the threat of war and actual fighting numerous times and the current generation of parents lived through the cold war and the imminent danger that carried with it.

And with the smallpox vaccine in the news it’s a good idea to help your child understand that you need just another shot to help you not get sick when you care for others.

Dr. Most said it’s important to reassure your kids that shots like the smallpox vaccine are a routine part of your job. And it’s also helpful to remind your children that you get shots already like TB and Hepatitis B so you can care for others.

"Tell them your job is to make other people safe," Dr. Most said.

Keeping a normal routine and not letting yourself get wrapped up with anxiety are two of the best ways to keep your children feeling safe and secure.

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