“Mommy, are we going to be in a war?”
Let’s face it: the news these days is pretty dire. Many of us spend our days waiting with bated breath for the other proverbial shoe to drop.
It’s downright frightening, and that’s speaking from the perspective of an adult.
Imagine if you’re a child.
With our 24/7 news cycle, social media and digital communications giving us more information than we would ever need — or want — it’s no wonder that we’re anxious. And so are our kids.
Back in the day, we’d be able to hide the worst bits about global issues and potential conflicts by simply turning off the TV or hiding the newspaper.
With the information age and social media, no one is immune. We get the details immediately on our handy, dandy devices, and so do our kids. They may or may not be carrying a smartphone or tablet but you can be sure that their friends are. Data included.
We can no longer shield our kids from the horrors of the daily news.
So what’s a parent to do, knowing that the cold, hard truth of a potential war or conflict — foreign, domestic or both — is a sobering and potential reality? The kids are asking questions and are expecting answers. For parents not sure of what to say, here are some ideas.
Be open and prepared
In today’s digital era, the days of hiding the frightening truth about global world events from our children are gone. Social media and the pervasiveness of information via a 24/7 news cycle makes it impossible for parents to shield the reality of world events from their children. In times like these, the best way of dealing with world events such as impending wars in foreign lands is to be open to your children’s questions, as well as prepared with answers to the inevitable questions that they will ask. If you’re not already closely following the news, make a point to do so on a regular basis so that you can preemptively answer and/or anticipate your kids’ questions. Proactive discussions with your children around the dinner table, at breakfast, or even when you’re out in the car dropping them off to hockey practice can ease the way into these important discussions that are so needed in today’s world.
Be honest but provide context
The prospect of a catastrophic world event such as WWIII is something that most of us can’t fathom. The spectre of nuclear war is back in the news and back on the minds of many [of us] who grew up with this prospect as a very real occurrence. As with many parenting challenges, honesty is the best policy. Yes, there may be tensions that are escalating in foreign lands, however, there are many adults around the world that don’t want war to happen. For children, it is comforting for them to know that there are more people who don’t want war to happen than do, and that they will do everything in their power to avert the worst case scenario. The key is to allay all of your kids’ fears as best you can. After all: much of the role of being a parent is to provide comfort in times of need.
Much of the role of being a parent is to provide comfort in times of need.
Kids ask questions. That’s part of how they learn about the world around them. In heightened political times, particularly when the word “war” is being transmitted across most news and digital channels, the questions will come more frequently and with more urgency. In these instances, it’s paramount that parents are available to answer these questions as best as they can, even if that means giving an indeterminate answer. The reality is that parents don’t know everything — no one does — and kids need to learn this as well. Uncertainty is part of life, but teaching your child this in concert with providing them the knowledge that you will always be there for them to comfort them and answer questions can mitigate the fear that they may be feeling.
Answer any and all questions at the level that your children can understand (age appropriate)
As with all parenting answers, those about impending or existing wars in foreign lands should be handled with care and age appropriate. The detail and complexity of geopolitical forces that result in a march to war will not be understood the same way by a kindergarten-aged child as they would be by a pre-teen or teenager. Proceed with caution, remember the limit and capability of your child to process the information that you’re providing and answer their questions accordingly, and comfortingly.