Talking About War with Preteens and Teenagers

by: Alvin Poussaint, M.D. and Susan Linn, Ed.D.
Here are the words you need to talk with your preteens and teenagers about terrorism and war.
Table of contents

Talking About War with Preteens and Teenagers

In addition to discussing the terrorism talking points appropriate for school-age children, talk with your older kids about patterns in history. Preteens and teens can understand the similarities and differences in political situations around the world.

However, while we might expect teens to have an adult grasp of terrorism, in fact they are often not able to understand it as fully. Teens have a natural sense of invulnerability that may help them distance themselves from the event. While some may be very involved in world events, others may be so overwhelmed by their immediate life that it hard for them to think about the needs of other people.

Also, the media culture that many teens are immersed in encourages toughness, cynicism and a glorification of violence. These attitudes may get in the way of expressing their deeper feelings and concerns.

However your teens and preteens respond, let them see your own feelings of grief, anger and even fear. Your responses help teens see alternative ways of coping with terrible tragedy.

Relate what happened in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania to other massive slaughters throughout the world. Talk with kids about the genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia, the Holocaust , or the Armenian massacres. How is this event the same? How is it different? If we feel more strongly about it, why might that be?

Talk about the options available to the US government and what you think about them. Let your teens and preteens have their own points of view.

Encourage teens to explore the issues independently through a variety of news media. Talk about the similarities and differences between the way wars are reported.

Older teens may be worried about a possible war-time draft and the consequences for them and their friends. Let them talk about their hopes and fears.

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