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When “Modeling” Means War Fears Not Costumes and Runways
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
Tenafly, NJ
Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Dr. Patricia A. Farrell

Adults often mirror their emotions on their faces, by how they respond to sudden sounds, a lack of affect, or perhaps abrupt changes in behaviors. Children are human sponges for learning and adults play a highly important role in what they learn and how kids "model" behavior.

The children in Ukraine are now more dependent than ever on the adult models around them. How these adults react during the Russian invasion and the bombings will determine the mental outcomes of these children; irrefutably anxious or with a sense of resiliency. Will they develop a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? It's dependent, in a major way, on the behavior of the adults around them and they must be up to the task.

But we needn't limit our consideration of how to best help children during trying times in war zones. Each day, adults provide mental templates for kids and help them chart a course through the troubled waters of life. Fail here and you leave the children with difficulties often damaging to their learning, social relationships, and future careers. The research is clear on these points as kids go through brain development that is crucial for future happiness.

Failure to provide adequate, sensible, and thoughtful modeling will be potentially harmful in the areas I've mentioned. The duty is irrefutable and necessary that it be carried out with the children's futures in mind.

Television and digital media have brought the war in Ukraine into our homes and onto our children's and our computers. Estimates are that more than 400K children have left Ukraine to be sent to foreign countries where they may not speak the language; separation from parents will be most traumatic.

The situation for families and their children is terrifying and children here will be questioning if they might die or be subjected to war, too. What guidelines have been provided by research and experts in child development regarding war issues? In order to be most effective in modeling, an adult needs to:

1. Provide a sense of reassurance and confidence

2. Offer consoling words and actions to calm a child's fears

3. Keep a positive outlook

4. Allow the child to express their concerns and fears

5. Communicate in terms the child understands and without excessive details

6. Reassure the child that they are safe and you will protect them

7. The child should be the one asking questions and the adult should follow their lead. If they initiate the conversation, let them talk about it.

8. Don't overload the household with news coverage about Ukraine and the war. Limit the time it is available and consider what should not be viewed.

9. When a child questions something, ask for clarification rather than believing you fully understand why they asked and the true intent of the question.

10. If your child wants to help, have a list of organizations that are asking for donations or some other assistance where a child can become involved.

These are difficult times, and no adult wants a child to be anxious or afraid, which is normal considering what has been displayed in the media. But don't expect that you'll have an immediate command of the situation--it may take time and the child may experience some behaviors from an earlier developmental stage. Always remember that reassurance is central and a loving hug is always needed when the child provides a sign that it would be welcomed.

Website: www.drfarrell.net

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Attribution of this material is appreciated.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Title: Licensed Psychologist
Group: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ United States
Cell Phone: 201-417-1827
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