How to talk to your children about war
Updated: Mar 12, 2022
What is so hard about this topic?
My friend asked me to share some thoughts on my parenting approach on the question:
How to talk to our children about war?
My understanding of the current conflict is very limited, I will admit this before I start.
The reason being is that after I had my second child and found myself returning to the office to my then full-time job after maternity leave, I was so overwhelmed one morning - I had to turn the news on the radio off.
After I had dropped my 2 young children to creche, it felt like had already accomplished half a day's work.
Listening to the news on the radio that morning and starting my day with hearing about another gang-land murder in Dublin over-night was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
My limit of fear and propaganda was reached for this lifetime.
I was barely holding it together as we were also in the final stages of building our house.
So what I am trying to say is that growing up in East-Germany and living through the terrors of The Cold War, made me give up on believing that governments have our best interest at heart.
My beliefs as a young child were so far reaching in imagination that I was terrified most of the time that the U.S. would sent nuclear weapons to West-Germany.
In my young and not yet developed brain, I believed that American rockets couldn’t reach into my country and “The West” would then bombard us.
Any time I encountered somebody from the Western World (mainly on TV), I was frightened to bits that they wanted to harm me.
So my message to parents is to ask yourself where the conflict is in your body?
What I mean is that we tend to easily take sides in a conflict without having listened to both parties properly.
The Adlerian approach suggests to read a dialogue and cover up one speaker’s lines.
What do you understand about the real cause of the problem?
That’s what it was like for me as a child in post-war Germany.
I was born in the late 70’s but the atrocities of World War 2 were talked about as if it had happened yesterday.
So another belief I formed was that us (the socialists) were the good guys.
Swastikas were not allowed to be displayed and therefore all the survinging Nazis lived in West-Germany.
What I understand our job to be as parents is to find out what our children’s beliefs are and help them to not be stuck in a place of fear the way I was with the war around me.
What I asked my younger child who had unfortunately seen the images on TV the day of the outbreak was:
What do you know about the war between Russia and Ukraine?
He told me that his country of Ireland even stayed neutral during the two world wars and has no interest in fighting when only 2 are at war like right now.
I was amazed at this young man’s understanding of the political situation.
So I asked: Are you afraid at all?
He said: No, absolutely not.
And the conversation ended.
What do you believe about wars in our world?
Is it something that keeps you up at night?
I am not saying that suffering should be ignored.
In war time - children always suffer most.
What I would like to address is the question of:
What is it other than a conflict we are not directly involved in?
You are safe where you are and any worries you may have right now are simply projections of a possible war inside of you that you are projecting onto the world stage.
Byron Katie who helped me with her tool of inquiry has given me a method to end the war inside of myself.
I learned that if I am at peace, I am so much more capable of dealing with threatening situations and bringing love to them.
When I am calm I can find solutions and offer help.
When I panic, I am stuck in my own trauma and make everything worse.
Our children take their sense of safety from us.
I experienced this first hand when we were in a car accident a few years ago.
The impact was not that bad and nobody got injured.
However, I suddenly panicked in fear that a car could crash into us.
Only when they saw me panic, did they start crying hysterically.
What we role model and send out to our children is mirrored back to us.
Our children have no understanding of what war means, unless they are in it.
So we need to protect them and not expose them to images such as TV’s in open places and turning off the news when our children are around.
This might sound hard in our day and age where violence is becoming more normalised.
However, we are the parents who can stop the overstimulation our children are experiencing and simply asking kindly and firmly if a TV or news can be turned off in places where families meet such as restaurants, is what I will do the next time.
When parents say that children these days are prematurely thrown into older age experiences such as exposure of sexualisation of teenage girls, I believe we are too distanced from what they are consuming.
We need to come together as a parenting community and say stop to the material gain of certain companies at our children’s expense.
I, as much as I can, keep an eye on my children’s screen consumption, and I mean the content as well as the length.
If you as a parent think that the language used is inappropriate for your child, you need to re-negotiate the screen use.
A parent told me that their 5-year old is completely addicted to a certain show on You Tube that is simply not ok for the child.
In no way do I ask you to monitor and control everything your child watches screen-related.
I am suggesting to have open conversations with your children and asking them questions such as:
What do you think about the character’s behaviour?
And then choose something that is more in line with your values as a family.
So how did we get from war to screens?
It is the same parenting method of engaging your child in open conversation and understanding what beliefs they form about themselves, others and the world.
You may and have a right to disagree with me.
And as always, I am interested in what you have to say.
Please feel free to click here, email me and tell me how you speak with your children about war, screens and violence: email@example.com