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How Parents Can Talk About War with Their Children

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How Parents Can Talk About War with Their Children

By Movieguide® Contributor

News of war can be confusing and traumatizing for children, making it important for parents to consider how much and from where their children hear about it.

“It’s horrifying,” psychiatrist Daniel Amen told CBN News. “It’s horrifying for all of us, but is more horrifying for children.”

Kids are unable to understand that the things they see on the news can be taking place far away from them and instead might believe they are soon to experience similar horrors.

Verywell Family explains, “Your child may have heard bits of information and he may be struggling to make sense of things. Or he may have seen media coverage that you weren’t aware he was watching.”

Parents need to address the topic at an age-appropriate level and reassure their children that the events are taking place in isolation and away from where they are, per CBN.

“The more we talk about [these events], the more we allow kids to see them, which is why I often say turn off the news, they’ll begin to think [these events are] commonplace, and then they’ll begin to worry about their own safety,” explained Dr. Amen.

Psychologist Stephen Grcevich also advises parents to be cognoscent of their response to major world news as their emotions towards the events become their kids’ emotions as well. Forbes adds, “kids take their emotional cues from adults, so try not to overshare any fears with your child. Speak calmly and be mindful of your body language, such as facial expressions.”

Rather than modeling fear or anxiety, Dr. Grcevich encourages parents to respond to trials in a positive, proactive manner.

“We need to model for our kids the way we would like them to cope with difficult and challenging circumstances,” he said.

“Like in the case of a teenagers, on their social media platforms,” he added. “Raise money for a reputable charity that’s providing aid and assistance to families that have been impacted by the tragedy in Israel. That would be a positive thing they can do.”

Dr. Ted Baehr developed five keys of media wisdom to help parents determine what is appropriate for their children to know.

Baehr writes:

As the director of the TV Center at City University of New York, I helped develop some of the first media literacy courses in the late 1970s with 60 professors for all over the world. Since then, years of research have produced a very clear understanding of the best way to teach media literacy. Specifically, there are five Keys of media wisdom that will help build the culture-wise family.

  1. Key 1:  Understand the influence of the media on your children. In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, CBS President Leslie Moonves put it quite bluntly: “Anyone who thinks the media has nothing to do with this is an idiot.” The major medical associations have concluded that there is absolutely no doubt that those who are heavy viewers of violence demonstrate increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and aggressive behavior. Of course, media is only one part of the problem – a problem that could be summed up with the sage biblical injunction, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Cor. 15:33). As the results of thousands of studies on youth violence prove, watching media violence causes violence among children. Bad company corrupts good character – whether that bad company is gangs, peer pressure or violent movies, video games and television programs.

  2. Key 2:  Ascertain your children’s susceptibility at each stage of cognitive development. Not only do children see the media differently at each stage of development, but also different children are susceptible to different stimuli. As the research of the National Institute of Mental Health revealed many years ago, some children want to copy media violence, some are susceptible to other media influences, some become afraid, and many become desensitized. Just as an alcoholic would be inordinately tempted by a beer commercial, so certain types of media may tempt or influence your child at his or her specific stage of development.

  3. Key 3:  Teach your children how the media communicates its message. Just as children spend the first 14 years of their lives learning grammar with respect to the written word, they also need to be taught the grammar of twenty-first-century mass media so that they can think critically about the messages being programmed for them.

  4. Key 4:  Help your children know the fundamentals of Christian faith. Children need to be taught the fundamentals of Christian faith so that they can apply their beliefs and moral values to the culture and to the mass media of entertainment. Of course, parents typically have an easier time than teachers with this Key because they can freely discuss their personal beliefs. Yet, even so, it is interesting to note that cultural and media literacy and values education are two of the fastest growing areas in the academic community – a trend most likely due to the fact that educators are beginning to realize that something is amiss.

  5. Key 5:  Help your children learn how to ask the right questions. When children know the right questions to ask, they can arrive at the right answers to the problems presented by the mass media of entertainment. For instance, if the hero in the movie your child is watching wins by murdering and mutilating his victims, will your children be able to question this hero’s behavior, no matter how likable that character may be?

Prayer is another powerful response to world tragedies, and while we may feel helpless to do anything about the events, modeling a prayerful attitude will help children.

Sharon Jaynes, author of “Praying for Your Child from Head to Toe,” encourages parents to pray for their children along with praying for those suffering around the world.

“Even though they’re seeing atrocities on the television, they’re hearing parents talk about what’s going on,” Jaynes told CBN News. “Praying for calmness over our children, and praying that they will not be worried, but trust in the sovereignty of God in their own lives.”

She emphasized that parents should pray scripture over and with their children. Verses like Deuteronomy 31:8, Psalm 23 and Psalm 34:4 all talk about trusting God even through difficult situations.

To limit kids’ exposure to the graphic content from the war in Israel spreading across social media, some schools are suggesting parents remove their kids’ access to social media.

Movieguide® previously reported:

As the war in Israel continues, American and Israeli schools are urging parents to have their kids delete TikTok and Instagram as Hamas, a terrorist organization, is threatening to upload graphic and disturbing videos.

It is common that “videos showing pleas, violence and even killings are a common tactic by terrorist groups that take hostages. Israel says about 150 people are being held hostage, including women, children and the elderly. Hamas has warned that it would execute hostages in response to strikes in Gaza,” Times of Israel wrote.

Forbes reported that one school sent a message to parents: “Dear Parents: We have been notified that soon there will be videos of the hostages begging for their lives. Please delete TikTok from your children’s phones. We cannot allow our children to see them.”

“It’s hard for us, it’s impossible for us, to digest all of the content displayed on various social networks,” the message continued.

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Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.

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4000+ Faith Based Articles and Movie Reviews – Will you Support Us?

Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.