Talk with your child

When children have questions, give them honest and simple answers. Ask them what they think is happening, and listen to their answers. Don’t discount their feelings — they may say they’re afraid, and you should be ready to tell them that fear is alright, but that they must go on with life.

Make your home a safe place emotionally for your child

Spend lots of family time with your child, especially during difficult times. Spend more time with your child playing games, reading, or just holding your child close.

Limit the amount of news your child watches during difficult times

Turn off the TV or radio when war coverage is on. You don’t need to hide what’s happening in the world from your children, but neither do you have to expose them to constant stories about war. Put away magazines and newspapers that have photos of the war. Monitor your child’s Internet usage to ensure that they are on appropriate websites.

Realize that the stresses of war may heighten daily stresses

Your child might normally be able to handle a failed test or teasing, but be understanding that they may respond with anger or bad behavior to stress that normally wouldn’t affect them. Reassure them that you just expect them to do their best.

During difficult times, map out a routine and stick to it

Children are reassured by regular schedules. If homework is completed at a certain time, make sure you keep that time for homework. Your child may be less able to handle change at home when the world around them is unstable.

Make sure you take care of yourself

Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your child. If you don’t, you may have less patience and less creativity at a time when your child needs reassurance of their safety. 

Tell children that they will be alright

Reassure them that they will be protected. Have an emergency plan for the family and share whatever parts of it you think your child can understand. Share with children the emergency plans their schools have and prepare them—some schools shut down in an emergency with the children inside, and your child needs to know that the school will provide protection even away from home.

Watch your child for signs of fear and anxiety he or she may not be able to put into words

Has your child become extra clingy, needing more hugs and kisses than usual? Have your child’s grades suddenly dropped? They may be feeling the pressure of what is going on in the world around them. Encourage them to write stories or draw pictures that show how they feel if they can’t put their feelings into words.

Enlist your child’s help

Just because your child is young does not mean they cannot do age-appropriate chores, such as setting the table or cleaning their room. Make sure your child knows how their actions contribute to the entire family’s well-being. If your child knows that they have a role to play, and that they can help, they will feel more in control and more confident.

Put things into a positive perspective for your child

Neither you nor your child may have been through a war before, but tell your child that wars come to an end one day. Point out times when your child has faced up to and conquered something that may have frightened them, whether it was fear of the dark or of entering a new classroom for the first time. Assure them that they can overcome their fears. When you talk about bad times, make sure you talk about the good times in the future as well.

We are grateful to the American Psychological Association for this publication

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