Sunday, April 6, 2003

War exposure worries parents

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The 7-year-old intently watched the images of war. On the screen, Baghdad was washed in the deep green of night vision goggles, the explosions of bombs briefly illuminating the city.

"Wow," he said. "Cool."

  The workshop's suggestions:
Age 2 and below: Only talk about the war if he or she asks a question.
Preschool: Let your child ask the questions. Answer simply and honestly. Use play to help express feelings.
Elementary school: Ask questions, then discuss feelings. Use play and art for expression.
Middle school: Ask questions about their opinions and feelings. Answer honestly. Suggest journaling or art.
Teenagers: Talk about war openly. Share your values and feelings. Ask their opinions.
• Talk about it, but first find out what your child already knows.
• Provide reassurance and consistency.
• Increase family time.
• Limit the amount of media exposure.
• Maintain a daily routine.
Discuss and practice safety plans.
• Take care of yourself.
• Monitor your child's emotional responses.
• Children with friends or family in the military will need extra support.
• Watch for behavioral changes, and seek professional help as needed.
That's what brought his mother, Kyra Schroer of Loveland, to "Coping with War," a workshop about discussing the war with children. Held Saturday at the Millennium Hotel downtown, the discussion was sponsored by Beech Acres, a family service organization in Anderson Township.

"It (the war) really does look like a video game sometimes," she said. "My son looks at that and makes lighthearted comments, and that disturbs me."

The discussion, part of a full day of parenting panels, focused on how to help children cope in a war-saturated society.

Most parents were concerned about overexposure to the media.

"They don't know how much they should shelter them," said Carolyn Brinkmann, clinical coordinator for Beech Acres and a moderator for the event. "How much war is too much?"

A few parents swapped stories about how the war has crept into their children's lives: A conversation about nuclear weapons took center stage in a carload of 12-year-old boys on their way to a birthday party. An otherwise passive 3-year-old girl suddenly wanted to punish Swiper the Fox (from the cartoon Dora the Explorer), because "bad people have to be killed."

"Our kids are growing up in a world that's very different than the one we once knew," said Jim Mason, president and CEO of Beech Acres and an event moderator.

"No matter how old they are, from 7 to 17, the children need to know that Mom and Dad have everything under control," Brinkmann said.


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