The War Reached The Children, Too WAR IN THE GULF

March 10, 1991|By Randi Henderson

There was no shielding America's children from the war in the Persian Gulf.

Their mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles were plucked from family life to become part of the huge fighting force in the gulf. Even children who remained personally untouched were assaulted daily by images of war from their television screens.

With this exposure came a national effort to help children deal with the war. Special TV programming designed to answer their questions supplanted Saturday morning cartoons. Newspapers around the country, including The Sun and The Evening Sun, put out special sections aimed at children.

Parents latched onto institutional efforts to help children handle the war emotionally, at least in part because of guilt feelings that they could not do it themselves. With the large number of mothers now in the work force, more and more children come home from school to watch TV without supervision or screening. Psychologists and other experts advised that parents and caretakers should monitor their children's exposure to war news.

A Scholastic Magazine poll found children experiencing "a feeling of fright and concern," about the war, according to Ernest Fleishman, Ph.D., director of education at Scholastic Inc. In mid-January, when the war began, 54 percent of the children polled said they were "scared." A third were also "angry" or "confused" about having American soldiers in the Middle East.

Experts counseled honesty when children asked questions, personal support and encouragement to talk about their feelings. Concentrate, said Georgetown University psychology professor Brian Doyle, on "emphasizing the positive realities, that [the child] is in a loving home in a safe neighborhood with . . . parents who care about him."

Effects on Children

The Gallup Organization conducted a poll during the war (Feb. 7-10) asking 292 parents how their children, aged 5 to 17, were affected by war.

*2 percent said their children had war nightmares.

*7 percent said their children had difficulty sleeping.

*51 percent said their children expressed fears about war.

L *50 percent said their children asked to talk about the war.

*75 percent said they made special efforts to talk to their children about the war.

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