Health | How to talk about war without scaring children

“ANDWill there be war here too? Will we destroy the buildings? “ After the mask and the barrier gestures, war has in turn invited itself onto the playgrounds, plunging the children back into an anxious context. Even if they do not fully understand this conflict, they are the first to perceive the tensions. However, should the topic be addressed with children? How to answer their questions? What words should we use? Decryption with Sylvie Mayelle, clinical psychologist at the Timone hospital.

Should we wait for the child to ask questions about the conflict or should we anticipate the topic?
Sylvie Mayelle: Anticipating the topic doesn’t seem like the right position to me, but being ready in our responses when the time comes, when the children address the topic. Anticipating things, especially if they are under 10, could add further fears, especially as we are emerging from a major crisis related to the pandemic. This would mean adding distress to distress. On the other hand, if changes in behavior appear, digging is essential. If your child is asking questions, then taking the time to listen and answer her questions is essential. But in moderation.

Are there any words to tell him?
It cannot be said that it is not serious and at the same time completely hide the truth from children. Babies are little emotional pumps. We are all on high alert, are sensitive to our reactions and easily absorb our worries. Especially since anxiety is the first thing the child perceives in the parents. He doesn’t necessarily know what to do with it when he inherits it. So if there’s one thing not to say, it’s: “Things are happening around us, this is serious!”nor dramatize with phrases “Other children are going through terrible things.“The pandemic was already war for them. There was a risk of losing their parents or grandparents. The adult must not join in. We must remain in the preservation of the child, protect him because in playgrounds words are not always right. Talk about this. argument means having simple words. Explain that the war takes place far from home. Be positive with them to channel the emotionality and anxiety that this generates. We can, for example, accompany them in the steps of donations to associations or encourage them. “What can we do for these people? How can we help them, support them?” Parents can offer to write a letter, draw a picture or make a small package to send.

Is it a bad idea to let them watch photos on TV during meals?
We don’t do better at traumatizing them. As long as we can avoid it, we prevent ourselves from watching the news with them. This reality cannot be fully exposed to children. They could project themselves.

Do you need to check in regularly with children?
Yes, I recommend it. It is useless to raise them every day but from time to time, indirectly during an argument. They are asked about their day or the games or conversations they have at school in the yard. All in subtlety.

And with teenagers, should we change our attitude?
Parents need to be very communicative with the teenager. This is the time to develop a critical spirit with him. It is getting information, gathering his feelings about him, seeing how he perceives things, whether he is worried, whether he has an opinion. We are not talking about geopolitical views here, but he can get a sense of the situation. It is necessary to avoid that the adolescent is locked up in his anxieties. He has an annoying tendency to believe that chatting with friends is more fun or easier than talking about it with his parents. This is sometimes the open door to anxiety. Friends have no more answers than he does.

Do we have the right answers?
No. On the other hand, they are more suitable. Normally, an adult should take a step back. Knowledge is always reassuring. This transition period between childhood and adulthood is already complicated. Let’s not let them foresee a very happy future.

Teachers are also at the forefront. Should they talk to the students about it?
It is important to talk about it because not all children necessarily have the necessary and adequate listening skills in the family environment. Of course, it is not up to teachers to educate our children about what is happening in the world or what to think about war. Without giving a whole lesson on warfare, it is still vital that an adult speak. On the other hand, in these moments of exchange, teachers can identify if he has any anxieties and alert parents. Let’s not forget that some children take the liberty of telling their teachers things they don’t tell their parents. Out of fear, there are children who are preserving their parents. They are afraid to worry them a little more with their questions. If I were a school principal, I would be in this initiative. Probe without question.

Is there a good time to engage in this discussion?
Especially not before bedtime with the risk of disturbing the sleep of children. To choose, we wait for the weekend to discuss it serenely and in a more present way. Unless the children feel the need to “let go”.

The testimony of Kristina Bohdiazh, student in Kyiv: “My greatest fear is nuclear war”

In less than a week, 23-year-old Kristina Bohdiazh and 25-year-old Oleksii Itkydach turned into small news agencies themselves. From the bottom of the cellar of their building, in Kyiv, where they hide when the alarm sounds to warn of a Russian attack, or in their apartment, as soon as they can go up there, these two students document in Ukrainian, English, French and the Spanish war. at their doors. Literally.

Interviews on Skype, stories on Instagram, the young couple, perfectly connected, take advantage of these long days of waiting to tell, from their point of view, a city that holds its breath. There is no way for Kristina to leave, to reach Aix-en-Provence, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in European and international political science: her life, more than ever, is in kyiv. “It is the best protected city, we will put all our army to prevent it from falling.” Every day he tries to keep in touch with his relatives, scattered in Kyiv as well as throughout Ukraine: every time, the same anguish. Will they answer? This Friday she has no more news from her aunt in the Donetsk region. The moral? “How are you, she admits, her hair pulled back, her face impassive. I am always on the phone, I also continue to do my job as a translator “. When the shops reopened on Monday, the pair amassed enough inventory not to be immediately alarmed by a shortage. Friend of animals, Kristina also participates in a rescue operation of hundreds of abandoned dogs and cats fleeing from the inhabitants of Kyiv. “We are trying to recover them, to keep them with us while we organize a departure for the shelters,zoo”, explains. She has not yet been able to enlist in a civil protection brigade, which is still his desire for him. “But for now the teams are full”, she learned. About ten inhabitants live in this building where she had returned, a few days before the Russian offensive, to visit her boyfriend. Young people, like you, or people too old to evacuate the capital. “I always get calls from people looking for a car to leave”, Breathe. In her eyes, the road remains the best way to leave Kyiv: “At the station the trains are crowded when they are not removed.”

While NATO has rejected the creation of a no-fly zone, Kristina expresses her fear for “nuclear war”after the fire at the Zaporizhia power plant. “Nobody tell me that Putin will not use this weapon against us, she sweeps. It was also rumored that he would not invade Ukraine! Thus, over the days and the strikes, his anger grew against the Russians, “responsible for their electoral choices, who do not protest” massively in their country. “Yes, they will spend two weeks in prison for a demonstration, but is it a greater risk than the one we live here, under the bombs?”

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