War: The Five Best/Worst Things You Can Say To Your Children
- Wednesday, February 26, 2003
The Five Best
1. "What have you been hearing about the war?"
Ask your children questions. Begin a dialogue by showing an interest in your child's thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Ask him what he has heard at school. Ask what his friends think. Ask what he has heard on the news. Ask if he has questions.
Then listen to your child's answers. Ask clarifying questions. Why do you think that? How do you think that happened? What do you think will happen next? Show an interest in your child's opinion and it won't be long before you hear, "What do you think, dad?"
2. "You can only watch TV for 30 minutes and I want to be present."
War on TV can be graphic. Viewers and parents beware. In addition, seeing real human beings killed with the precision and repetition of a video game can have a numbing effect on children.
War is not a game. Neither is it a sixty-minute drama interlaced with commercials. The war related TV children watch needs to be highly regulated and supervised. Turn the TV off after the news coverage and debrief. Dialogue about what was just seen and heard. Processes the material presented and help your children make meaning of this serious material.
3. "What do you suppose it looks like from the other side?"
This question is parent talk that helps children learn about perspective. It helps them learn to see things from both sides of an issue and develop empathy as well.
"What do you suppose it looks like from the other side?" is a question that asks our children to shift perception, to put themselves in another person's shoes, to see how a situation looks from a different point of view. It broadens their perspective and develops their ability to see several sides of an issue simultaneously.
4. "I don't know what will happen, but I know we'll be able to handle it."
When children get scared, adults often make what they think are reassuring promises. They say, "Everything will be okay," or "Nothing will happen to us. I can tell you that." These promised do not tell children the truth. We do not know everything will be okay. We do not know for sure that nothing will happen to us. Not anymore!
Tell your children the truth, "I do not know what will happen, but I know we can handle it." What you are really communicating to your child here is confidence. This style of parent talk says, "I am confident we can handle whatever comes our way. If we have to ration, we can handle it. If the price of gas doubles or triples, we can handle it. If the economy nosedives, we can handle it.
5. "I understand how you could feel that way."
There is strong emotion generated in this country concerning war. We have hawks and doves, peace marchers and war advocates. There is debate and disagreement in the Congress. Marriage partners are often split on this issue. It is highly possible that one of your children holds beliefs about war that differ from yours. When these differences are expressed, effective parent talk would include, "I understand how you could feel that way."
"I understand how you could feel that way," does not say you agree with your child. It does not say you share their beliefs or their feelings. It demonstrates and communicates understanding, an understanding of how they could arrive at that conclusion. It is filled with respect for differences and honors diversity.
The Five Worst
1."God is on our side."
God doesn't take sides. To tell children God loves us more that He loves them is untrue. "God is on our side," is parent talk that helps our children develop false beliefs that only good things can happen to us because God plays on our team. When you say this to your children you equip them with a false sense of superiority.
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