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Do you explain War to your children?

Explaining War to Our Children

By STEPHANIE HIMEL-NELSON

Explaining war to kids is always hard, but when you’re part of a military family, the task is even more difficult because it’s so personal. When my sons were little, their father was in the Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer with the Seabees, the Navy’s construction division. The boys understood what the military was in a very hazy “It must involve a ship, Daddy going away, and a large yellow bee” kind of way. But because their father wasn’t directly in harm’s way, I was able to gloss over hard questions about war and just concentrate on the fun parts of having a dad in the military from a toddler’s perspective — serving the country and wearing really cool hats. When my brother, a soldier in the Ohio National Guard, went off to Kuwait three years ago, that explanation no longer seemed sufficient. While Uncle Bryan wasn’t hunting Taliban in Afghanistan, our family still worried about him and his safety. To keep the boys connected to their uncle, we checked his unit’s Web page with photos posted for family and friends, looking for that familiar face. On one night, my son asked to see a photo of an “Army truck” and I found him a few Humvee photos. On the back of each vehicle was a large placard with two stop signs and a message in Arabic and English. It read “DANGER STAY BACK.” My 3-year-old wanted to know why they had signs on the trucks. I tried the standard, “Well, cars and people could get hurt by that big Army truck if they get too close.” He wasn’t buying it, pointing out that tractors are bigger. So I said, perhaps rashly, “Sometimes bad people try to get too close to the trucks and blow them up.” I’ll never forget the look on his face. The idea that someone might want to hurt his uncle was incomprehensible to him. I believe it was the first moment he realized that bad things don’t just happen in nightmares. The moment was a first for me, too, as I realized that my military family would walk a fine line between explaining what Daddy and Uncle Bryan do and letting my children be children for as long as possible. In our military community, my children and their classmates understand more than most kindergartners should about the mechanics of war. My sons, now 5 and 6 years old, can identify military aircraft flying overhead, they can tell you what an R.P.G. or an I.E.D. is, and they know that Seals aren’t just found lying on the rocks in the sun. But war isn’t just a cool game for the playground; it’s horrible and dirty and fraught with shades of gray. That’s where it gets hard....

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...How have you explained war to your children?

Current AD Military Spouses: Do you think being part of a military family makes it more difficult or easier to explain war? 

Answer Question
 
grlygrlz2

Asked by grlygrlz2 at 2:39 PM on May. 24, 2011 in Politics & Current Events

Level 39 (106,530 Credits)
Answers (17)
  • I disagree with you anon... I don't think parents should surrender the learning to the schools. Parents should take an interest in the current events and news their children are exposed to..
    grlygrlz2

    Comment by grlygrlz2 (original poster) at 2:42 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • Only in the most basic form. DD doesn't really get it, but DS does. He is very interested in any kind of history and anything having to do with military. Sometimes he comes home with ideas of what is going on, but it's usually only half the story. We have to challenge his thinking with another side so that he understands that war and military action is rarely one sided.

    QuinnMae

    Answer by QuinnMae at 2:45 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • sorta. ds was only 1 when dh last deployed this time he will be almost 5 when he leaves and will be 6 when he comes home so i'll have to tell him something dd is will be almost 2 when he leaves next and be 3 when he gets home so i dont know how she will cope. right now we daddy goes for training i just tell them that daddy is a soldier and that he is working.
    jhcz

    Answer by jhcz at 2:49 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • What I have told him depends on their age and maturity level.
    ochsamom

    Answer by ochsamom at 2:50 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • Books- Books were toys in our home. My son has been a history, military, weapons, strategy, battle buff since he was tiny.

    Travel- we have done battle tours-
    Sisteract

    Answer by Sisteract at 2:54 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • I openly admit that I shield my children from most of the outside world and proud that my husband and I do so. I do not explain war to our 4 yr old because that is not something he should worry about, he is a child. Through homeschool he will eventually learn certain things that I think are appropriate regarding wars but untill then that should be the last of a childs worries. I have a friend who has a child around the same age as mine and her ex husband which is his dad is in the army and also attends civil war reinactments. I cant believe how much this kid knows about violence bc his dad takes him to the reinactments with him plus Im sure he tells him all about whats going on in the world. My bff knows my #1 rule in my house is no talk about violence so when her son comes over and starts talking to my son about missles and what ever else I quickly shut that down. Now she makes it very clear to him that we dont discuss war
    LANDENSMOMMYlmk

    Answer by LANDENSMOMMYlmk at 2:56 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • cont... over at aunti lesa's house :)
    LANDENSMOMMYlmk

    Answer by LANDENSMOMMYlmk at 2:57 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • We try to keep it age appropriate content. We have frequent discussion and they express concerns. However my 9 year old is wiser beyond her years and has made some observations that have have made me pause and realize she gets it~ she gets (in young adult terms) why daddy has to leave/deploy. We have experienced one of the parents of their classmates not returning from Afghanistan and we have experienced neighbors, friends, and family coming home with extensive, visible injuries. They have seen the reality of war. We have driven off of base and been "greeted' by Code Pink. They ask questions... We are open and honest within "age appropriate" discussion.. Most of the time we encourage them to ask questions and learn about what is going on in the world, all while trying to keep it "age appropriate"
    grlygrlz2

    Comment by grlygrlz2 (original poster) at 2:57 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • Not now, they are in college. It needs no explaining.
    itsmesteph11

    Answer by itsmesteph11 at 3:06 PM on May. 24, 2011

  • The first time my BIL went to Iraq my oldest was in 4th grade, middle child was in 2nd grade & my youngest was in preschool. I explained things in terms that they could understand. My 4th grader had a very hard time with it and we stopped watching things on the news because he understood to much. I remember him making a card for his Uncle..it was a military drawing of war and his Uncle was saving people. The second time he went they were older although my BIL and sister had a 2 year old. We would tell him that his daddy was an army guy who was strong and helping others. He didn't ask much after that. My kids understood even more this time and we talked a lot more about the war. It was hard on them and they would send their Uncle cards and packages.

    I think you need to explain things in way that kids can understand. Be honest in an age appropriate way.
    cornflakegirl3

    Answer by cornflakegirl3 at 3:13 PM on May. 24, 2011

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