Frightening subjects like war can make your child anxious. Learn how to help.

Talking to kids about war is a challenge for most parents. But opening the lines of communication can relieve your child’s anxiety and help them feel more secure about the world.

Child Psychologist Ester Cole offers the following suggestions on approaching this tough subject with your children:

Protect Them:

  • Make sure you do not let your children see images that are not appropriate for their age.
  • Limit the amount of news you allow your children to watch and do not turn on the news and leave the room.
  • Do not talk to other adults about these subjects while your children are in the room. They may look like they are not listening, but they are.
  • Kids feel more secure when they have structure. Keep them to a regular routine and make sure the routine is full of social activities with their friends.
  • Kids often feel physical symptoms when they are anxious, like a tummy ache or a headache. Watch out for these symptoms.
  • Find out what your child is learning about war at school. Make sure the teacher is aware of any fears or anxieties your child has.

Listen to Them:

  • Be available to answer questions. Children tend to personalize things and they can become very anxious that something is going to happen to them. Listen to their fears and give them examples of what makes them safe, secure and stable. Revisit those examples often.
  • Do not force your children to talk but make sure they know you are there to listen.
  • If your child has a parent, friend or relative who is in the military, allow them to talk about their fears as much as possible. If they can’t find the words, they may want to draw pictures about how they are feeling or act out scenarios with their toys.

Talk to Them:

  • Use words that are age-appropriate and do not talk about issues your child is too young to understand.
  • Children will often need reassurance so be prepared to answer the same question repeatedly.
  • Do not get angry at your children because they continue to be scared and anxious and ask the same questions. This is normal.
  • Because children personalize things, they may get clingy and not want you to leave them alone. They may become fearful for your safety or the safety of friends and relatives. It’s important to reassure them as much as you can.
  • Children who have experienced trauma or loss because of war or terrorism may have intense reactions to these subjects. They will need extra reassurance and possibly the help of a mental health professional.

War is not an easy thing for adults to comprehend, let alone children. But as long as you keep listening and talking, you’ll go a long way towards making your child feel safe and secure.

More from TVO: