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War- How do you explain this to your child

Quoted in Mid-day on 7th March, 2022.

Younger children, especially, have a very black-and-white view of the world, where consequence is largely determined by the preceding action. They can therefore struggle to understand why innocent people must suffer. Further, repeated exposure to disturbing imagery can desensitise them. It is therefore important for parents to take charge and put forth a narrative that doesn’t just simplify these concepts but also presents them in the right context,” explains Dr Nahid Dave, psychiatrist at Thought Matters.

To prevent bombarding your child with too much information, establish open communication channels with them so they can approach you with any questions they have. “Be vigilant about what your child knows and where they are getting this information from. Offer to talk them through it and don’t go into any more detail than is essential,” explains Dr Dave. She adds that it’s important for parents to monitor their children’s intake of news. “Make sure that the exposure they’re receiving is intentional; don’t let them be passive recipients of news that’s relayed by a television screen that’s left on all day,” she emphasises.

Children mirror their parents’ response to stimulus, Dr Dave explains, adding that how a child reacts to an insect or an animal, for instance, will not be too different from their parents’ reactions. It’s thus important to use the right language around children and avoid exaggerations of doom and gloom.

Children express depression and anxiety differently from adults, either by withdrawing completely or exhibiting new-found aggression and hyperactivity. “If you observe any such changes in your child’s behaviour, it’s important to have them screened for mental illness by a professional. Here, it’s important to cast aside your own stigma and biases, and focus on what’s important for the child’s wellbeing,” Dr Dave concludes.

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