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For Immediate Release

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Experts Recommend Parents Explain War to Children but Limit Exposure to News

How do you explain to your child what a Code Orange is or why American soldiers are fighting a war in Iraq? Experts at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh remind parents to use common sense and limit exposure to news reports of terrorism and war, especially for young children.

Children’s Hospital experts offer parenting tips, available at, that address the best approach to explain tragic situations to young ones. Parents need to maintain a routine and limit children’s access to news reports covering the war with Iraq, said Iris Harlan, manager of the Child Development Unit at Children’s.

“We want our children to be aware of what is going on in the world, but we don’t want to frighten them or make them over-anxious,” Harlan said. “It is also important to keep the child’s age in mind. What’s appropriate for an adolescent isn’t necessarily appropriate for a toddler. Younger children really need to know the family is safe, while teens may need to have a more in-depth conversation about war.”

Other parenting tips include:

  • Maintain your daily family routines. Anxiety is “contagious” – particularly for young children. It will be helpful for your child to see that your world is not in chaos.
  • Limit and monitor TV time. Find other activities to entertain your child – reading, watching videos and playing games.
  • Listen to your child. Try to detect what seems scary and what worries him or her the most. And then, where possible, reassure your child about your family’s safety.
  • Younger children may need to be reassured that their needs will be met. All children need safety first, but school-aged children are developing the ability to think about matters that are more abstract. They will look to their family members for help in developing ideas and values about what is happening in the world.

Check out our complete list of parenting tips including Responding to Children When Tragedy Occurs.

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 20, 2008
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Last Update
February 20, 2008