Perhaps the events of this year have been the most tragic worldwide. There have been successive natural disasters, wars, and loss of lives and properties. These events are hard for adults and children to cope with, evoking many distressing emotions, from sadness and pain to guilt. This article discusses how to talk to children about these events and handle them.
We must realize that our children don't live in a protected bubble. Even if we don’t discuss what’s happening globally, they will likely hear about it from friends, television, or social media. So, one of the most vital roles we can play as parents is to prepare our children for such events. We can do this by sharing information with them logically and presenting facts without emotional drama. For instance, with recurring events like earthquakes or floods, it's crucial to provide scientific information about earthquakes, how they occur, and the destruction they cause without stirring up emotions. The same approach applies to wars; they can be presented in a historical context, emphasizing that they have occurred before. Giving this information as pure, logical facts helps the child begin to comprehend these extraordinary events, translating them in a way that their minds and emotions can handle.
It's vital not to present these events in a way that instills fear and panic, as this will become the dominant emotion with which the child processes such news. The child should never doubt the Creator's mercy or question divine justice. The next step is to foster empathy in the child, discussing the victims who lost their lives, families, and properties. While a logical context is crucial for informing the child about what's happening, cultivating empathy remains an essential educational task for parents. However, it's vital to avoid causing sadness or fear.
Please avoid sharing terrifying images of dead bodies, crying, and wailing with your children. Convey information to your child objectively without showing pictures or video clips. Refrain from continuously watching news channels. Give yourself and your child a chance to process the information and the emotions that arise without constantly burdening the senses.
When we watch a movie or a series, we always anticipate a happy ending, such as the protagonist marrying their love or good prevailing over evil. If the story concludes otherwise, we feel sadness and disappointment. The same applies to children! Our kids also hope for a happy ending. This perspective can be explained to a child in the context of short-lived natural disasters, after which reconstruction is possible, and survivors can resume their lives. However, it's different for prolonged wars with more significant losses of lives and properties. Therefore, not letting the child succumb to despair and sadness is essential. Mothers can play a role here by reminding their children of historical instances where wars and conflicts ended with the triumph of justice, like the liberation of South Africa and other countries from colonizers, instilling hope and optimism in the child's heart.
One of the positive approaches when discussing wars and disasters with children is to use them as a learning opportunity. Provide your child with essential geographical and historical information about the location of these events. Tell your child about Ukraine and its history, Palestine and its nature, and its importance for people of all religions. Tell your child about Libya and Morocco. Introduce your child to the countries of the world and their histories.
There's something known as survivor's guilt, and it's a natural feeling. However, neither we nor our children should succumb to these feelings. Guilt is a negative emotion that doesn't lead us anywhere. Ask your child, and ask yourself when feeling guilty: "Are these feelings helpful?" "Do they help those who've gone through a disaster?" The answer: No! It's essential to address our feelings positively through the following:
1. Recognize the blessings we have and express gratitude for them.
3. Do what we can to assist those in need through volunteering with the Red Crescent and donating through legitimate and official channels.
It's not our place to be hard on families living through wars and disasters, telling them how to act. But I can advise mothers to embrace their children and give them as much love and affection as possible. Always encourage the child to stay active and expressive. Perhaps the images of children playing atop the ruins of their homes best depict the ideal therapy for a child who has just experienced a trauma.