Today, the New York Times featured a guest blog post on their "At War: Notes From the Front Lines" section that discussed a military wife's experience in explaining war to her children. The post was written by Stephanie Himel-Nelson who works with Blue Star Families, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting military families.
I was pleased to see the post - anytime a military family member is able to share their thoughts with the civilian community it's a positive thing. Most importantly, the military community often has the same undercurrent of emotions as well as thoughts - and hearing someone else that's part of it discuss it out loud validates it and can bring comfort.
I'm not a Mom and I don't have a military husband, but I am a military brat. My father still serves as does my brother. As such, reading Stephanie's words was interesting for me. I'm always an advocate for doing what you feel is best for your family. No one knows your kids better than you do. But as someone who grew up as a brat, I was really happy that my parents told me how it was.
Stephanie is right about military children - we do know more than any other child would about the mechanics of war - but for me, it was comforting to understand all of that. For me, it was a piece of the puzzle. No one but other military kids understood what it was really like to have a parent deploy, or be separated from them for months and sometimes years. No one else knew what remote tours really meant, or why our parent kept a gear bag full of the essentials always at the ready. So for me, it was comforting to know what they have to work with, how they stay safe.
I don't really remember the very instant my parents told me about war, but I always remember open dialogue. As all parents are, I'm sure they were cautious. I'm sure they told me on a need to know basis and more importantly I'm sure there were many times that they decided I simply did not need to know. But the one thing that stayed true is that they were comforting and honest. They would answer my questions. They would listen. And for me, because we talked it about it, it made it less scary.
They always say that fear is of the unknown. I guess in this case I would agree, and because I knew so much it helped comfort me. War and conflict, time in far away places with way too much sand. . . it's just part of the package deal of being a military family. I wish we lived in a world where it wasn't but until then level setting is my advice on the way to go.
NOTE: If you're a military family and you are looking for ways to explain war to the members of your family, The Sesame Workshop has made terrific headway in this area. Check out their Talk, Listen, Connect resources that you can share with your kids.