Times of national and international crisis not only test us as citizens and human beings sharing a planet, they also test us as parents. They test us both as protectors of our children, whose primary goal is to keep them physically and emotionally safe, and as our children’s teachers. Children learn from what we say and don’t say about the world and their place in it: about politics and morality, about patriotism and nationalism, about relationships between nationalities and countries, about justice and injustice, and about life and death.
On a special section of the Bright Horizons Web site, we have included information specifically on talking to children about war, in addition to the information already available on the site in What Happened to the World? Helping Children Cope in Turbulent Times. While What Happened to the World? was written in response to the events of September 11, those events and their aftermath are only used as a reference point for helping children cope with any traumatic crisis and find the strength within them. What Happened to the World? Helping Children Cope in Turbulent Times was designed to help adults peer into the minds of children, from infancy through the teenage years, and understand their fears, their grief, and their struggles to understand why through the acts of humans or nature, the ground under their feet can suddenly shake and the world can become a very frightening place. Almost all of the insights into children’s thinking and behavior – and the understanding, compassion and thoughtfulness required by the adults who care for them – apply to war and other calamities, personal and societal upheaval, death, natural disaster, violence, even the sudden loss of a parent because of divorce or separation.