Website offers tips on age appopriate discussions with children


Wednesday, March 19th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Many of us remember the first war in the Gulf. But for many of our children, this will be their first experience ever with war.

So what do you tell them? The idea of war is scary enough for adults, who may have only a few hours to decide what to say.

The website, www.aboutourkids.org has devoted a special section to the war. Everything from how to deal with what's sure to be an avalanche of TV coverage, to what to say about Saddam Hussein.

There's a lot of good information. But Tulsa family therapist Alycia Williams says the first rule is that there's not one rule.

Alycia Williams, Family Therapist: "Every child is definitely different... Some kids may be very anxious in general, whereas other kids may have a much higher tolerance and may not seem bothered. I think it's really important for parents and caregivers to just pay close attention to how their children seem to be responding."

Kids do share some things in common though, one very important one is that they take many of their cues from adults. So it's important for parents to remain calm when talking about the war, even when you think the kids might not be listening.

Alycia Williams, Family Therapist: "Overhearing Mom or Dad or someone on the telephone and very upset an anxious about something then even though that wasn't intended for them, they've picked up those cues that this is a scary situation for a child."

Many people will be glued to the TV set, but parents should be careful about their viewing habits.

The website says kids can be overwhelmed by news coverage, especially when they see the same footage over and over.

Alycia Williams : "Unless they're very mature, a small child isn't going to have the understanding that's one piece of information that's being repeated, they may feel like it's continuously happening and that it's a continuous threat."

Therapists say don't try to hide the truth, but keep the child's age and personality in mind, and above all, make sure they feel safe. Again, check out www.aboutourkids.org.