Gone are the days when children are pretty much in the dark about many serious issues across the board. News alerts and information is readily available 24/7 on any electronic device. To think that children do not know what is going in the world around them, is no longer a reality.
Recently, with the increased tensions with Iran, although parents want to protect their children from these overwhelming events, it is better to engage and talk about what is going on because your children may be trying to grapple with their emotions just as much as you.
Parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa told Today Parents in a recent interview that, “It is better to engage with children age 8 or older. “But, if they might hear about it anywhere else you might want to talk about it at any age. Figure out what you want them to learn. What’s the one message you want to send along with whatever facts.”
Messages that Gilboa stresses is important to include in your talks is, “The war is far away and we’re safe. Or “Politics really matter in people’s lives and we have to vote.”
So, how do you actually start “the talk”? Here are Gilboa’s age-by-age tips/things to consider and remember as you approach the subject as outlined in her interview.
Preschool to age 8
Give them the facts with personal values/reassurance.
- “There’s a war far away where there are U.S. soldiers. We’re safe but it is a big deal.”
- “If they ask you a follow up question, state the answer simply and reinforce (your value).”
- If a child asks, “Why are they fighting?” Parents can say, “They’re fighting over who should be in charge but it is far away from here.”
- “It is really helpful to say to your child, ‘When you have more feelings come talk to me.’ Not if, when. When opens the door wider than if.”
Age 8 to 10
Again, keep messages short and simple, but do use this as a teachable moment.
- “It might feel that in your life or your child’s life that the message is about safety or being a patriot.”
- If they are not quite ready to verbalize the conversation, let them know that, “I’m the right person to ask,” when they are ready to talk.
- “Give yourself breathing room to decide what the lesson is.”
- “You know what the answers they are looking for are.”
- “[Let] them start where they are instead of where we think they are.”
- Ask questions to correct misunderstandings or information.
- If parents don’t understand or know an answer, look it up together!
High school students
- “Teenagers do want to know what their adults think about it and they are really influenced by it. But they’re also influenced by other people.”
- Help your teens “to think critically about where they get their information and their beliefs from.”
- For many teens, a potential war means they may worry about being drafted. Reassure them that the draft hasn’t been instituted in awhile and that the chances of a draft are relatively low, but also make sure to let them know that it could happen. “Ask your teen, ‘If there were a draft, in what way would [you] be comfortable serving our country?’”