Health Watch -War Worries

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Watching news coverage of war is troubling enough for adults. Imagine how children feel.

With television coverage bringing war into our homes, child psychologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say it's important for parents to address their children's fears about war while assuring them of their own safety. Dr. Thomas van Hoose, a UT Southwestern psychologist, says you should let children ask questions about the war, and give them honest and reassuring answers. Keep the answers and discussion appropriate to the age of the child. Younger children -- under the age of 9 or 10 -- probably shouldn't watch extensive war coverage or get into long discussions about the war. Older children should watch coverage with their parents. That way parents can answer questions, explain what's happening and offer reassurance.

If children don't get the opportunity to ask questions, or if they don't get satisfying answers, they may develop irrational fears based on their own interpretation of events.

Dr. Pete Stavinoha, another UT Southwestern child psychologist, says that children pick up emotional cues from their parents. If parents are anxious and fearful, children may become anxious. Try to remain calm so you give your children a sense that you're in control. Younger children may not have a good sense of scope or distance. Looking at a globe or map may help them understand that the fighting is happening very far away rather than in their own back yard.