What kinds of reactions to the war should I expect from my children?
How much TV news should I let them watch?
L Should I bring up the topic or wait for them to bring it up?
Since the beginning of the Persian Gulf war, parents and teachers have looked for answers to these and similar questions. No one is more aware of what a struggle it can be than Towson psychologist Gloria Kay Vanderhorst, who found herself fielding dozens of phone calls from concerned adults as children became more and more aware of developing events.
"Parents and teachers need to know what to expect from children on each level," Dr. Vanderhorst said. "They need it condensed in a concise way. They need direction on what kinds of activities and interaction can be helpful."
It wasn't enough just to respond to the people who contacted her directly, Dr. Vanderhorst decided. So she has written "Kids and the Gulf War," a workbook that takes a brief look at issues children grapple with and suggests exercises to help them adjust and respond appropriately. The 20-page pamphlet was published by the Chesapeake Consortium, an alliance of mental health, legal and financial professionals, with sections for adults and for students from preschool to high school.
Each chapter includes a brief synopsis of how the child might be expected to think and react, followed by suggested activities for school and home. A pre-schooler, for example, might be interested in constructing some of the symbols of war: flags, yellow ribbons, peace signs. A child in elementary school could write a letter to an elected representative expressing opinions about the war. A debate on a topic like patriotism would be a good way for a middle schooler to explore feelings. And high school students could benefit from watching the news with their parents and discussing the issues.
The workbook is available at Learning How in Kenilworth Bazaar, and the School and Pre-School Center on Edmondson Avenue, or by writing the Chesapeake Consortium, 101 East Chesapeake Avenue, Suite 200B, Towson. 21204-5319. Cost is $11.95 for a single copy, $10 each for five or more.