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How to talk to kids worried about war

Posted at 6:07 PM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-08 21:31:37-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — While there's been no suggestion of the United States enacting a draft amid tensions with Iran, hashtags like "#WWIII" are stirring up fear among young people.

Fraudulent text messages have also been sent out from an unknown source. The U.S. Army Recruiting Command has discredited the texts which tell the recipient to go to an army branch for "immediate departure to Iran" or face a fine at and least six years in jail.

"The Selective Service System is conducting business as usual,” according to the Selective Service System’s official Facebook page. “In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft."

While the United States hasn't drafted since 1973, federal law requires all American men who are 18 through 25 years old to register with Selective Service.

If a child is worried about a draft, psychologist Gregory Mallis said the parent should validate the fear and explain its unlikelihood.

“It’s not helpful to say, ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s not gonna happen,'" Mallis said. "What we want to do is acknowledge 'yeah, this would be a scary thing if it were to happen' and to kind with them and walk through that and process like, ‘Tell me about your feelings. Tell me what you’re scared of. What are the specific issues that you are worried about or are causing you stress?’”

If the child continues to be fearful, Mallis said channeling anxious energy is important.

“The next step I think would be if they’re stressed out about something like this is to encourage involvement in something that is connected to it," Mallis said. "Anxiety and stress are essentially extra energy in our body that often times gets us stuck but that energy can be used to help be more productive, getting involved in local or national politics by writing Congress people or senators, talking to local elected officials by getting involved with campaigns and using that energy toward something effective or productive.””

There is a reason young children may be more stressed about large world issues than young adults.

"In a kid’s world, they already don’t have much control or agency," Mallis said. "Parents are making most of the decisions for them. Things are happening in the world around them that they may not really understand and most of the time, that’s OK. They don’t have to understand. They can just happily live their life within it but if something this big that they’re connecting to that perhaps they’re seeing other people talking about, other people might be afraid of, that sense of lack of control or lack of agency becomes a much bigger problem and a much bigger issue.”

Grand Rapids Community College Political Science Professor Keith St. Clair highly doubts a draft will occur.

“If this were to become a full-fledged war with Iran, I don’t know if that necessarily means the United States would end up invading Iran militarily," St. Clair said. "Certainly a ground invasion of Iran would require a lot of troops but as we saw with Iraq, there was a resistance to calling up a draft.”

St. Clair said enacting a draft may not even be strategic.

“You want to fight the war with your best units, right? These professionally trained soldiers is usually what we have. You don’t want draftees or conscripts that haven’t been, had the time or the training to be brought up to speed," St Clair said. “Nothing can compare with the United States military, I mean as far as what we spend on our troops and how well trained and equipped they are. Iran is certainly no match for that.”

The unpredictability of U.S. tensions with Iran certainly doesn't help anxieties.

“What’s interesting about it is it’s just so unpredictable given the nature of our president and if anything, the Iranians seem a bit more predictable," St. Clair said. “I don’t understand or know what Donald Trump’s long-term or even short-term strategy is. I mean, he campaigned on wanting to get us out of the Middle East and yet what the last couple weeks on the attack on the general and assassinating him seems to be pulling us in, which is counter to what his campaign rhetoric was.”