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Coping With Psychological Warfare at Home

Learn how to defend yourself from the psychological terror that war brings.

Protecting Children From Psychological Warfare continued...


Carr says it's hard enough for adults to fathom current international affairs, and it's even more difficult for children to understand the images they see without being able to put them into the proper context.


"My concern is that for any child watching television, there is a potential that they could generalize it to the world at large," says Carr. "If they are not able to understand that the event is far away, they may have difficulty understanding that it's not an immediate threat."


Car says the tragedy of 9/11 has also made it harder for parents to explain away atrocities that their children might see on television.


"I think that years ago parents could say to their kids, 'Well that's not happening here and it's not going to happen here,'" says Carr. "I don't think parents can necessarily say that anymore truthfully."


But she says it is OK for parents to let their children know that they're afraid, too. Otherwise children may pick up on the disconnect between the fear they see in their parents faces and a refusal to talk about it.


Mental health experts and organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, say the most effective way to protect children from the effects of psychological terror is to be aware of what their children are watching on television and on the Internet and be available to answer their questions.


Other ways to help children deal with disturbing images include:


  • Monitor children's TV viewing to avoid exposure to disturbing images whenever possible. They may be particularly confusing and troubling to very young children who lack the communication skills to make sense of them.

  • Answer children's questions openly and honestly but gear the answers to the child's developmental level. Avoid offering too much or overly complex information.

  • Monitor your own reactions. Children will model their parents' reactions whether they like it or not.

  • Avoid stereotyping people by their religion or country of origin. This can promote prejudice in young minds.

  • Children previously exposed to trauma or violence may be especially vulnerable to news reports and violent images. Watch for signs of trouble sleeping, mood changes, or irritability that might be a sign of a problem that should be evaluated by a mental health professional.


"Parents need to do a lot of listening, being sensitive, and enabling older kids to talk about what they're feeling," says Figley. "Younger children are going to be more apt to look at their parents and see how they're doing."


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