Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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March 20, 2014

Talking to children about war can be healthy

I recently came across a 1951 article my late mother saved from the Charleston (SC) News and Courier. Titled "Agency Offers Pointers on How Parents Can Guide Their Child's Emotional Development," it is proof that parents and professionals of three generations ago possessed a wealth of common sense, a quality that has since become most uncommon.

The subject was war — the reader may remember that America was embroiled in yet another one at the time — and what parents could do to help their children cope with its realities. Keep them out of earshot when war was being discussed to prevent trauma to their fragile psyches? No. Adults should inform them of the dangers of war and the very real possibility (or so it was thought at the time) that an enemy could launch missiles at us. But wouldn't that cause a child to become fearful? Yes, but fears are not necessarily bad things.

Miss Florice Langley, executive director of the Family Agency of Charleston was quoted as saying that "As long as these fears are real fears and not overly exaggerated fears they form a natural, even healthful part of a child's emotional growth."

Indeed, adults were quite straightforward about such things back then. I remember, for example, crouching under my school desk during air raid drills. The hypothetical bombs in question were "atom" bombs, which, we were told, could come raining down at any time. I don't remember any kids my age or thereabouts who were "traumatized" by such information. We trusted that adults knew what they were doing and would protect us as well as they could. We were also aware that "as well as they could" was no guarantee of safety. As Miss Langley astutely pointed out, that was "healthful" thing for us to know. Kids talked about it freely, but not obsessively. We mostly planned what candy stores we would pillage if we survived.

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