Calming kids' fears

January 18, 1991

Not even the smallest citizens are immune from war and the fears it generates.

"Very young children, preschoolers for example, will not have conception of what a war is. But they'll see Mom and Dad are worried about something, and this will be scary because to preschoolers, Mom and Dad are the world," said Marc Nemiroff, a child psychologist in Annandale, Va. "And as they get older, 7 or 8 years old, they have a sense of the world at large and what being dead means."

He had this advice for parents:

* Confirm what children have heard on TV, but temper it by saying people are doing everything they can to keep us safe.

* Don't be alarmed if youngsters start playing more with toy guns, unless they appear to be obsessed with war and death. This is how children play out their fears.

* Watch for clues that your child is troubled by the war. Some children may withdraw, while others may start "talking big" about beating those bad guys. Teen-agers may express seemingly far-out political theories. Talk to them, and don't invalidate their fears or theories.

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