Kids have questions about the war - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Kids have questions about the war

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March 27, 2003

Adults have concerns about the war in Iraq, and so do children. For one fifth grade class at Northside Elementary School in Albany, Wednesday was the first time the kids were given an open forum to ask what they wanted about the war, and their questions may surprise you.

Mrs. Thomas' fifth grade class is taking a break from their work to ask some questions that have been on their mind. 11-year-old Adrian Green asks, "Will Saddam Hussain have a trap for the troops when they get to Baghdad?"

"They are obviously watching a lot of TV and looking at a lot of newspapers very well informed I thought." Julie Walker is Northside Elementary's school counselor, and this is the first time she has fielded questions from students about the war.

"I'm sure it will be. Did you hear her question? She asked if this war will be in the history books. I'm sure it will be." What future fifth graders will be reading about in their history books is being lived out right now, and these 11 and 12 year olds are watching it happen, and it can be scary.

Mrs. Walker says, "They see other children in the midst of war and the immediate response is what about me? I'm a child. And from there they ask will I be okay?" With questions about nuclear warfare and how many people have died in Iraq, these children are thinking about some big issues.

With spring break coming up next week, a lot of these kids will be watching even more of the war, and that worries Mrs. Walker. "It's really tempting to keep the television on all day and unless parents are their to monitor what they are watching I'm concerned about what children will see. I'm concerned about how we will deal with it when they come back."

The war is just seven days old, and Mrs. Walker is surprised by how many questions the students already have. As the war goes on, the number of questions will likely increase.

Classroom teachers deal daily with students' questions and concerns about the war. At Northside Elementary, teachers who identify children who are overly anxious will refer them for counseling. Julie Walker is also considering providing group discussions for kids to talk about the war.

The best time to ask your kids how they feel about the war is right when they get home from school.

The images that children see on television can be frightening for them, or they may not understand what is going on. Even though your kids might not be asking questions, they do have them.

Therapist John Stoeckel says parents need to initiate the conversation, "The parent can say what did you hear about the war? What are other children saying about the war? Rather than starting off with a feeling question because we don't always know what we are feeling. Just asking questions is a good way to get at those feelings."

If your children can't talk about their feelings, you might want to try using a "Feeling Chart". The chart illustrates dozens of different moods, like "sad" or "angry." Stoeckel says parents can use the chart to help their kids identify how they are feeling about the war. You can get a free chart by calling Behavioral Health at Phoebe Putney Hospital at 229-312-7001.

Posted at 3:47 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com