Stacey Hirth talked of being "angry and sad" about her uncle's deployment to Saudi Arabia.
"We're afraid that if the war is going to go on," the elementary school student said, "we won't see him for a very long time."
She was speaking at a support group at Red House Run Elementary in Rosedale for students with family members deployed to Saudi Arabia.
Stephanie Hoehn, whose brother Bill is a Marine in Saudi Arabia, talked about someone from the military who calls her home sometimes attempting to recruit her other brother to become a Marine. "We said no 100 times on the phone," she said.
Guidance counselor Lynn Farmer started the support group last September at the eastern Baltimore County school, about a month after Iraq invaded Kuwait. About 12 children, ranging in age from 5 to 12, now come each week.
Farmer has researched studies of soldiers' children from the World War II and Vietnam War eras and applied her training as a guidance counselor to develop a support group structure in which children can express their feelings, learn about issues in the Middle East conflict and find ways to deal with their fear. She hopes that some of the counseling format she has developed can be disseminated through the Baltimore County school system.
Until Tuesday, she had tried to end each group meeting by stressing the hope for peace. But on the day the United Nations' deadline passed for Iraq's withdrawal, Farmer said, she could only end the meeting with suggestions for how to cope "because it was so scary."
She urged the children to talk with family and teachers about their fears, to write or draw their feelings in a journal, to divert themselves in physical activities and to pray.
At a typical meeting, students might talk about letters or calls they had received from their family member in uniform. The discussion might turn to some aspect of the news from the Middle East, or some of the research Farmer has done on such issues as how Iraqi President Saddam Hussein rose to power. At this point, she might try to deal with misconceptions about the nature of war.
"They think it can be taken care of like the movies 'Rambo' and 'The Terminator,' " Farmer said. "We explain that it's more difficult."
Because of the anger that some students were expressing, "the older boys spent a session writing letters to Saddam Hussein, which we didn't send," she said. "The anger subsided then."
Farmer said the sessions had changed the behavior of some students, such as the one who used to sit in her lap and cry during each meeting and who is now an active participant.
Over the course of several such meetings, Farmer said, "we all feel like we know each other's family members very well."