A Child's Guide to War

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Susan Hackley

Child’s Guide to War is a documentary film and educational project that will show the impact of war on America’s children and families and inspire better, more informed discussions about how war affects us all, civilians and military alike. Though nearly two million American children have a parent who has been to war, most Americans have no connection to the military. While respect for the military is high, real knowledge is lacking.

The media have focused on the struggles of soldiers and veterans, but very little has been said about how war affects the people who love those soldiers. The subject is current, underreported and extremely important.

Imagine a 10-year-old whose mother or father is fighting in Afghanistan, who worries that her parent will be injured or killed. That’s a lot for anyone to handle, and we rarely give children the opportunity to talk about these tough issues and offer them our support.

We are committed to telling this story right. We are filming in Iocations throughout the US to show a wide range of children and families. While we will focus on the children of parents who have deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, we will also talk to civilian children. Our country has been at war their entire lives, and these children have important questions and concerns. While there is a deafening silence around the issue of war in most families, schools, and communities, there is a growing realization that we need to educate children in new ways. For children 13 or younger, we have been at war their entire lives. With educators and psychologists, we are developing a discussion guide for parents and teachers to talk about issues relating to war in age-appropriate ways to children.

To bridge the civilian–military divide in the US, civilians must come to understand and appreciate what soldiers experience – and military Americans need to be willing to engage the rest of us in conversations about those experiences. One way to start that conversation in a meaningful way is to listen to our children.

When a nation goes to war, it affects everyone. As one person we interviewed said, “When my brother went to war, our whole family went with him.”

To learn more about this project, please go to www.achildsguidetowar.com.

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