Interview: How do you talk to children about war?

At what age should you start talking to your children about war?

It can not be attached to a certain age. In any case, war is a concept that is sometimes difficult for adults to grasp. Many of us belong to generations who do not know war personally. This term exists, but we do not associate it with anything based on personal experience. But suddenly we are inevitably confronted with this subject because the war is taking place almost outside our own doorstep and many refugees are seeking refuge with us. When talking to children about war, it is important to be truthful, but not to arouse fear. And, of course, the maturity of the child must also be taken into account.

Read more: Overwhelmed by fear of war: What to do now

Should parents wait for their children to raise the issue themselves? Or should one specifically seek the conversation?

If parents know their children and listen closely to them, they will recognize the right time for such a conversation. For as soon as children begin to deal with the subject, they will have many questions. And then parents should also take the time to look them in the eye. What you certainly should not do is encourage the children to say: Now let’s sit down and talk about war.

Read more: More anorexia since Corona – younger people are also affected

Does this mean that parents or even grandparents need to have a wait-and-see attitude?

It’s about taking a sensitive look at what the children’s needs are. And this time may come sooner than some parents want, also because we now have many refugees in the region, and therefore refugee children also come to education or are cared for in day care institutions. Questions inevitably arise. This is a good starting point for a conversation. But parents should not be too proactive in providing information that may be difficult for adults to process, or just share random Wikipedia links.

Read more: How the real adventures contribute to education

Some parents want to keep their children away from this topic for as long as possible. Does it make sense to block inquiries on the grounds “You’re still too small for this!”?

No, parents should certainly take these questions seriously, just like any other question children ask. A child always asks only as far as he understands himself. The answers must therefore remain comprehensible. One should use words that the child can understand and not overload them with information. Parents should always make these dependent on their child’s maturity and level of development. There are eight-year-olds who have come a long way and with whom you can talk more about the subject. And there are other eight-year-olds who can not process it like that. You should decide this individually.

In fact, the younger the child, the less able he is to understand the full consequences of a war. A ten-year-old is much more aware that people are dying. At this age, children deal with the subject of death and finality in a completely different way than a four-year-old.

Sometimes you might get a little “annoyed” with your kids because they keep asking the same questions. But children are asking for security. So parents should not lose patience, but explain it over and over again.

Read more: Concerns about war plague citizens in the Northeast

But what do parents do when children do not start asking questions?

Some kids just do not want to talk. But they like to paint, for example, and in doing so they also imitate something or use it to process something that they have overheard. If kids want to draw something about the war, let them do it. If they want to recreate war with their toys, then they must be allowed to do the same. It is a child’s treatment mechanism. There are children who will not talk about their own fears or think too much of them. If they would rather climb or play and not talk about it, that’s all right.

Read more: With children for the Corona demo – how dangerous is it?

Some parents may find it difficult to talk about war with their children. Can child-friendly books or videos be useful?

In any case. Especially in the preschool area you know “The show with the mouse”. There are good videos where Johannes Büchs provides lots of kid-friendly information about the war in Ukraine and the background. Even as an adult, you learn something new.

It is important to watch the books or videos with the children. However, one does not necessarily have to watch current news programs with a preschooler. It overwhelms the children, especially the pictures, some quite irreverent, some of which are shown there. Parents should stick to child-friendly messages such as the ZDF “Logo”. But the child should also not look at these alone. Parents need to know what their children are seeing, because only then can they refer to it and answer questions.

Read more: Soul care: When rescue workers suddenly need help themselves

Do you think that the war in Ukraine should be discussed more in schools? Or is it the parents’ private responsibility?

The parents are primarily responsible for providing information because they are the legal guardians and the direct contact persons for the children. Parents should not leave everything to school. And the schools are still reacting to what is happening, if nothing else, because now refugee children are coming to school. Nevertheless, parents should not delegate this transfer of knowledge to teachers or educators. You will be asked yourself.

What is very important is that, of course, we must be careful not to give the children a blanket picture of the evil Russian. Despite the attack on Ukraine, not all Russians are an aggressor.

Dr. medical Manfred Blütgen has been chief physician in child and adolescent psychiatry at Ameos Klinikum Ueckermünde since 2007.

Leave a Comment