First Covid, then the war. This is how we help our scared children

First Covid, then the war. For two and a half years, children have been subjected to major life changes. The little ones experienced that they had to deal with anxiety, which made them ask their parents questions they had never asked before: “Will Dad go to war?”, “Will the soldiers enter our courtyard?”, “Will a bomb hit our house?” Mothers and fathers, but also teachers and educators, play an important role: they can help children who do not have cognitive and geo-location skills available to feel safe and protected in any case.

To give them a broad and comprehensive picture of how to handle the subject, he came out “War. The words to say it”an essay published by Erickson that gathered the original contributions on the subject from many of his beloved authors: Alberto Pellai, Stefano Vicari, Daniela Lucangeli and Dario Ianes (as well as an exclusive introductory interview with Liliana Segre).

We talked about it with one of them, Alberto Pellai, doctor and psychotherapist in developmental agewho edited the chapter “A Scared Child: Talking About the War at 0-10.”

How have children changed in these two and a half years?
“They have learned what they should never learn: that the world is not a place where one can feel safe and secure. They perceive that the ‘outside’ can be threatening, that the world can make us sick, it can kill. I this phase, their balance between the need for protection and exploration has become very skewed towards protection, but children need to perceive the security that then facilitates the exploratory process: they have to go out into the unknown to gain experience and learn pieces of When the child feels more secure in his comfort zone and gives up exploring, his growth path is blocked ».

What is the role of the adult?
“The adult has a basic function: everything that happens to the child” outside “is filtered by his relationship with the parent. The world is threatening if the adult lives it and describes it as such. We must therefore pay attention to comments such as:” It’s dangerous “,” We are not safe “. But also to the facial expressions and comments that we let go by talking to other adults. It is the parent who must give the child the skills to ensure that the child can not give up even alone ‘.

Even at the expense of keeping quiet about some truth?
“It is not the case to deny the ongoing war, but it is good to emphasize that we live in an area where the children who were under the bombs are also protected and who have now been welcomed into our nation and ours. cities. In this way, the child perceives that war is terrible, but also that it does not represent a threat to him here and now.

It is a war that has been going on for a long time. Should children keep talking about it, or is it better to try to divert their attention?
“There is no need to talk in depth to the little ones about everything that makes us feel in danger: If it does not represent a real threat, it is better not to stress. If, as far as Covid is concerned, it was inevitable to talk about it, here it is not necessary to do so. “

But is there not a risk of losing interest in war?
“No: one can also be interested in war by talking about building peace, the experiences of integration and acceptance of children who have come to Italy. These are arguments that have value and power when dealing with the theme of war.

And when the news, for example, at noon sends bloody images of war, how can they be commented on?
“The news tells a truth that is not suitable for children and represents the worst part of the world. The little one can not resort to abstract thinking: he experiences threats as if they were everywhere. When children see certain images, it is useful to soothe them without denying what the TV says, then we should try to understand if we really need to have the news as a companion during family meals, which often feature the worst stories, the desperation of the people who have lost theirs. families, the ruined houses.These are truths that are not so necessary for children.

This war also has economic consequences of this war. How do you tell them the truth if they ask us for explanations without making them worry too much?
“If you have to sacrifice yourself in the family because you are going through a difficult time financially, it is good for the children to know: It is very important to make them feel that the family is a team, because in that way the dimension of strength and resilience are well-known.It is clear that we as adults must remain a secure base: We must always explain to the children that we will succeed, even at the expense of victims ».

How can we transfer calm when we are the first to be calm?
“Even before Covid, many adults faced life in an anxious way. There are objective protections and other concerns that make a frightened parent a frightening parent, and the child’s need for protection eliminates the need for exploration. The parent who is the victim for unhealthy anxiety, should work on it, also to ensure a good balance for the child ‘.

Other stories about Vanity Fair which may interest you:

“Obsessed with likes already at 10 o’clock”, sounds the alarm from the specialists

Play squid: what to do if your child is obsessed

Leave a Comment