How much do you tell them about the war? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 13 Old 03-24-2003, 10:09 AM - Thread Starter
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I've seen this discussed a bit here and there, but I haven't seen a thread devoted to it yet.

My dd is 5. She knows nothing about the war, and I mean nothing- absolutely no conception of the news at all. We don't watch TV, and I don't listen to news radio around her.

I feel that it is important to protect her and let her be a child. But I do have at least some small part of mixed feelings about when/how to start sharing this kind of news with her.

We have a lot of peace protests in our town, and dd has asked about them. I give her a general answer- "those people are holding up signs for peace. They are saying that people should be nice to each other, not be mean, listen to each other, nor hurt each other." But I don't add that they are protesting a war that is actually taking place. I guess I will have to be more explicit when dd learns to read!

I have been moved to read about parents on this forum who take their children to protests and vigils. But I don't want to explain war/killing/etc to my 5 year old.

I'd like to hear others' thoughts/experiences with this.
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#2 of 13 Old 03-24-2003, 10:33 AM
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Sam knows a soldier is and believes that soldiers fight bad people.

Since he is 3, I will tell him nothing.

If a child asks a question, I think it should be answered, but I don't feel that children who are under the age of 10 need to know all the details. I would tell them generalities. There is no use in scaring them and making them upset over something they have absolutely no input or control over.

I think that what you said was appropriate and very well stated. This is a tough issue.
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#3 of 13 Old 03-24-2003, 02:45 PM
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I think it depends on the child.

My ds is also 5. We don't watch tv, but we do listen to npr in the car. He is very interested in history and current events. He listens to the news, but when it gets too intense I change the station. We discuss the war more in a general sense, but we definitely discuss it. If he has questions, I'll answer them. He has even gone to a couple peace rallys!

This discussion is important, but such a luxury. I think about the children who are living through war. What do their mamas tell them? I do believe in protecting our children from too much info, and certainly violent images. But, for me and our family, I think it is important he is aware of some of the realities of the world he lives in- in a very general sense.

I also think at 5 he made a huge leap in what he is able to process and what he cares about. He had no idea about 9-11, but he is more curious about his world now and I respect that. I also respect parents that want to shelter their children as much as possible. It is a scary time and I think we are all trying to do the best we can.
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#4 of 13 Old 03-24-2003, 02:56 PM
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My dd is 6. I have actually taken her to some peace demos--the candlelight witness last Thursday, and a march in Philly yesterday that was a march we've gone to before, a protest of the school of the Americas...

anyway, I was just keeping all my comments generic. You know, we want to raise a candle for peace...we do Lent, so she knows this as a prayerful season in my life anyway. So imagine my surprise when we were getting ready to leave yesterday, and she said, will we have signs? I said I didn't know, that we would probably carry the white crosses we have carried before...and she wanted to make a sign.

she made one that said, "Don't go to war. Please. It's very bad for you." So I think more gets in under our parental radar than we think!
(she vetoed her own other ideas: "don't go to war, it will make you snore" and "don't go to war; you will be a bore." I think she did pick the nicest of the 3, don't you?)
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#5 of 13 Old 03-25-2003, 11:40 AM
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Yes, depends on child. Heard a story about a 6 year old whose elementary school visit to a firestation left him tramatized. The firefighters told the kids that they would come if thier house ever caught on fire. That was enough, apparently, for much anxiety about fire and safty etc. That kid needs some sheltering for a while.

At the same time, I worry about sheltering kids too much - i.e. the lack of street smarts of Elizabeth Smart at 14. She was so protected that she was left unprepared.

How do you find a balance? Follow the kids lead I guess?
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#6 of 13 Old 03-30-2003, 01:56 AM
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My dd is almost 6, we don't watch tv or listen to news on the radio either. I know she would worry if I told her about something like that and there is nothing she can do about it and neither can I.
I prefer to not bring her into the adult world.
She has a whole lifetime of that ahead.
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#7 of 13 Old 03-30-2003, 07:42 AM
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My children have recently developed a fascination with tanks. I thought I was ensuring they didn't see tv images but they saw a huge photo on the front page of our local paper of tanks going across the desert. As one of my children has an interest in deserts the tank was interesting to him. We have explained factually what tanks are. They haven't asked yet why tanks are needed but when that time comes we will answer truthfully but bear in mind that children are children.

I remember when I was very young being frightened by TV images of the Vietnam war (showing my age!) and I do not want my children exposed until they show maturity of thought. Which may be a looooong time away.
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#8 of 13 Old 03-30-2003, 07:33 PM
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during the early 90s Gulf War I was impassioned in my opposition to the war...and I was also not yet a mom. I was driving with my then 5 yr old nephew, and a news story came on the radio. He was applauding that "we got them", and I went into a rant about how "they were sons fathers brothers who were being killed". His reply? in a very small, very sad voice, he replied, "I hope they all get better and go home to their mommys."
I learned then and there to NOT burden a young child with our complicated adult understanding of the world. DD now is hearing a lot of talk about loving each other at home and in Sunday school. It is kindergarten that is the wild card for me...I think her teacher is wise enough to refrain, but are other parents, other teachers? It's a bit of a worry for me...
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#9 of 13 Old 04-07-2003, 12:10 AM
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I'm so glad someone brought it up as its own thread. I am really sick of articles on how to talk to your kids about it, when I feel so strongly that they don't need to be burdened with it.

What children need is to know that they are safe (when a mom goes to the hospital to have a second baby for example, the first kid couldn't care less about Mommy & the baby--s/he wants to know about "me!")

At any rate, my ds is 8 and reading. He sees signs that say "no Iraq War" and "support our troops" on every other lawn. The headlines (on the street boxes, none in the house) blare about bombing. We avoid public places a lot these days. My response to the signs is the same generic 'these people want peace.'

We don't really talk about it though, but I do answer questions simply and truthfully. Sofar there have only been two: "Mommy, is it true we have a president who wants to go to war?" A: Yes. "Mommy, is there going to be a war here?" A: No, sweetie, no war here.

I worry that perhaps he is hearing something from older kids (they have been asked to keep that kind of talk in their classroom), and perhaps trying to process it himself because he knows how against fighting and guns I am.

P.S. Somehow I think all these articles were written to help adults cope with the media barrage they subject themselves to--watch too much war, and you feel like you need to talk to everyone, including your kids...
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#10 of 13 Old 04-07-2003, 10:28 AM
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Our daughter is 3.5. We generally don't watch the war coverage on TV, but if we do happen to turn it on, it's after she is asleep. We do listen to NPR coverage. My family talks about the issue a lot when she's around (so we don't hide it) because my brother is serving over there.
However, she has not asked about it, so we haven't had any separate talks with her about it. She knows that her uncle flies a helicopter and "had to go far away for work" and that we like to send him packages and letters, but that's about it.

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#11 of 13 Old 04-12-2003, 06:57 AM
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we don't have a tv. my son, however, does know that we are at war, and that that means that people on both sides are getting hurt. i don't believe that he fully understands the full scope of the horror, but he knows that war is something his parents disaprove of as violence. he asks questions, and we answer them honestly, gently, and very simply. he has seen an iraqi folk doll at the library, and he knows that the war is far away, but many people right here are going to protests to try to stop it. we live in a small city, and for now i am limiting my activity to the local rallies and vigils. he has seen me making signs and has asked questions about the rallies. he asks if there are other kids there, and are the rallies noisy. lately he has decided that he wants to go. using the weather as an excuse, i told him no for weeks, but he kept asking, and even made a sign.

yesterday i let him go. we had a long talk before hand about the noise (he is audio-sensitive) and the fact that there are many people who disagree with us who might not know how to act nice when they see us. he still wanted to go, so we brought an extra grown-up. he was frightened of the noise at first, and very scared when a clearly mentally ill or drug addicted man on the sidewalk began screaming at us and threatening some of the women at the edge of the street. the 3 of us grownups clustered around ds so he would feel safe and carried him to the sidwalk when the man was gone. many times during the rally we offered to take ds home. we asked again and again, and even when we thought he wanted to go and began to turn around to take him home, he would say he changed his mind and wanted to keep going. when we finished the march to the war memorial, ds said he really wanted to go, so we all went. i did not get to hear the veterans speak like i wanted, but that doesn't matter because yestrday my baby boy chosse to overcome fear and discomfort to show support for something he believes in and i am very, very proud of him.

he does not understand the complex reasons why we claim to be fighting this war, or the complexity of reasons why we oppose it. he does understand that people are being hurt, and now he understands that he has a voice he can use to call out to stop it. i think his self-esteem was raised today. later on we took him out for soda and cookies and we told him how proud we were. he surprised me by asking to go again! he asked if we could get light earplugs so the noise wouldn't bother him. we'd have to bring extra grownups to stick by him in case he gets separated from me, and have him holding a grown-up's hand at all times instead of socializing with his friends, as well as a hand-signal for "take the earplugs out now". but i'm really thinking of letting him go again. i'm very proud of him.

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#12 of 13 Old 04-14-2003, 10:05 PM
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My dd is four and is completely in the dark about the war. Why on earth does she need to know? Children need to feel safe and secure. I agree that if a child inadvertently sees or hears something and asks about it, they should be answered truthfully, but still with the minimum of info to satisfy them. Older kids are a different story, of course.
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#13 of 13 Old 04-16-2003, 03:06 AM
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Even at 2 1/2, my ds learned to say Baghdad, thanks to my NPR habit. Sometimes when he's nursing we listen to the radio and the other day he stopped drinking to say, "They are fighting in Baghdad." Ack! Can't I even have NPR on?!

I told him some men were fighting and it was sad but he's pretty good at listening to the radio so I am not sure how long we'll be doing even that...

We were listening to Cartalk last week when a guy called in from Branson, Missouri. Ds said, "that's where Zoe is from." I said, "What?" and he reminded me that a dog we read about on the internet is also from Missouri. How do they make these connections so soon?

I think every child tunes into the world their own way and we get to know just what to say and when by tuning into them. They are such great teachers.
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