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What to do if the news upsets your children

Recommend that they avoid such ridiculous non-advice as this lot of BBC rubbish (thanks Natalie Solent) which I fisked today over here, and tell them this:

The war in Iraq will happen in Iraq, not in Bromley, Guildford or Kansas City. If it’s anything like the last gulf war, it will kill far few people than Saddam has since the last gulf war. But it might kill fewer people. And anyway, the world already contains some disgusting countries where people are killed by their own governments for no reason, which is why the war in Iraq is happening: to reduce their number, and improve things.

You might not want to talk about many of the actual specific evil things Saddam has done, in case they are upset by such details. Children don’t always want to see pictures of innocent mothers and babies gassed to death by their own government in their home villages, for instance. But you could say that Saddam is a vicious thug who has murdered many, many human beings, and the world will be better off once he’s out of power.

If they are having nightmares about terrorist attacks, you can explain how incredibly unlikely it is that one of these will affect them personally or anyone they know, and that you personally do not waste time worrying about it. Tell them terrorist attacks will be reduced once the governments that fund terrorists have been changed to better ones, which is why the Iraq war is happening.

And of course, find out whether they have been subjected to irrational antiwar nonsense from teachers or anyone else they know. My view, since watching a TV documentary about how British children ‘felt’ about 9/11, is that something very unpleasant in the current political climate is actively encouraging kids to feel personally bad and anxious about world events in coercive, irrational ways. For most children- still trying to learn how to read, play football, write stories and get on with their friends- people they never met being killed thousands of miles away should be no more upsetting than people they never met being killed in WWII.

But it’s easy to induce hysteria. “Oh dear, how awful! Isn’t it shocking, little Jimmy! Those people could bomb our home next! Now, how do you feel…?” Well, if the people you rely on for help tell you fairly clearly that you should worry, then you worry. A lot of antiwar propaganda consists of scaremongering, and our children are unfortunately very vulnerable to it. This BBC advice doesn’t address that: it’s part of the problem. Parents: protect your kids from antiwar propaganda: talk to them rationally about the war.

1 comment to What to do if the news upsets your children

  • Elizabeth

    This is a very good article Alice!
    This war directly affects my family, so we have direct discussions about what is going on with our children.
    We keep our discussion factual – legal – to a point of probably being boring.
    BBC, CNN or Fox News don’t rule the tv in this house. Sponge Bob is still king!
    It’s good for the kids to remember this however. I just remind them they are witnessing big events in history.
    They’ll barely remember what life was like before September 11, 2001.