Family Matters Blog: Explaining War to Our Children
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 25, 2011 – Guest blogger Stephanie Himel-Nelson is a social media consultant and the communications director for Blue Star Families.
By Stephanie Himel-Nelson
July 25, 2011
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...
Much more - and a must read - here.