From 24 February, TV, newspapers and the web have been continuously offering images and war stories. Explosions, deaths, civilians fleeing, families taking refuge in bunkers, mothers crying. Scenarios that no child should see, let alone experience firsthand. “Children – explains a Today the child neuropsychiatrist Elisa Fazzi, President of SINPIA (Italian Society of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry) – are highly vulnerable to stress and with less ability to adapt to trauma, with devastating consequences on their development and therefore on their future which is the future of the world “. For the SINPIA, as well as for the ESCAP (European Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry) at a European level, the first objective must be to protect the psychophysical health of every child and adolescent and therefore of every human being as much as possible, to allow children and young people from Italy, Europe and around the world to grow up safely from the threats and consequences of armed conflicts.
So how can we protect our children from the war story? What feelings and emotions do the images and videos transmitted by the media in these days arouse in them? How to tell him what is happening? We talked about it with Prof. Elisa Fazzi, director of the Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry Unit ASST Spedali Civili and University of Brescia.
Pro.ssa Fazzi, is it right to talk about the war on children or would it be better to protect them?
“Protecting children does not mean keeping them in the dark about the facts that affect their lives and their daily lives, denying reality or hiding it when it is still under their eyes, easily accessible through infinite channels. Without forgetting their strong natural sensitivity in perceiving significant or critical events. As with the Pandemic, telling our children about the war is inevitable and it is not possible to ignore it, also because the news would reach them anyway. Better then to tackle these issues too with simplicity, a spirit of truth and participation. This allows even the worst news to be expressable and therefore easier to process. Sharing with the adult lightens the burden “.
How should parents and teachers address the issue?
“The best way is to listen. The ability to listen, observe and grasp what children say and express, not only with words but also through behavior, play, drawing: it is a precious parenting and educational competence. Ѐ observing and listening to the children that we are able to understand what each of them asks and wants to know, calibrating our answers without saying too much or too little, contextualizing our answer and making it adapted to the request “.
The video with which the Russian government explains the war to children
What mistakes shouldn’t be made?
“Not talking and sharing with our children is certainly the most serious mistake, together with being blocked by the fear – which is ours as adults – of causing them more suffering by talking. It is also a mistake to talk too much and to rationalize, exceeding in unnecessary clarifications and details, typical of the thought of an adult “.
Can a different way of narrating be useful at every age?
“Yes of course. With the little ones, the preferred channel is that of play, but also drawing, which can represent an excellent vehicle for emotions. The story is also an excellent resource: telling a story allows you to express and process difficult messages or painful experiences “.
What impact can the story of wars have on future generations?
“The impact can be variable and long-term, ranging from the memory of an unpleasant event to more complex situations that may also arise from fragility or individual predisposition. Of course, a lot depends on the gravity and proximity of the story to the experience: one thing will be the impact that that story will have on the children of Ukraine, another will be on the European children that they will have seen or heard the story through the images of the news. “.
What role do the media play and how can we protect our children from the story told through TV, Internet and social networks?
“In addition to reporting unpleasant news, we know that there are also protective effects that the media can convey through the sharing and dissemination of news that is serene, positive and hopeful, which can soften, soothe, rebalance the negative ones and open up a path of hope that should be offered even in the most difficult situations “.