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Last Updated: 03/10/2005The Little Children
Then They Started Shooting breaks stereotypes about “traumatized war children” by talking about children’s resilience in dealing with war hardship. In the aftermath of the Bosnian conflict, very few children showed lasting signs of trauma; instead, thoughts of their personal futures filled their minds. In her analyses of individual psychological health, Jones points out that children who avoided searching for explanations for past events have better psychological health than those who did not. Truly, distancing oneself from the past can be protective, but it can also cost the community as a whole. In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it seems that ignoring the past and lacking the will to deal with it can reopen the wounds that never properly healed.
started shooting: Growing up in wartime
This report from child
psychiatrist Lynne Jones will enrich not only the literature on
The book is divided into three parts. In the first part, Jones describes the war through the children's eyes. She presents children's perspectives on what happened, their fears and concerns that were often startlingly different from those of adults. The first part is further divided into three chapters that analyze children's first impression of war and the feelings that arise when the Fighting begins (chapter one). Children describe moments of their lives that were interrupted by the beginning of the war. But while at first they felt horrified and frightened, once they realized that The war goes on (chapter two) the children began to adjust to horror and death surrounding them. In each chapter, Jones offers the reader personal stories of Muslim and Serb children and their different ways of coping with fear and hardship. Finally in the last chapter of the first part of the book, Adjusting to Peace, Jones leads the reader through children s mixed (but in the majority positive) emotions upon returning home. Returning from refugee camps, the children were happy to be united with the family members they left behind, mainly males who were in combat.
Understanding What Happened, has four chapters and includes not only the
children s understandings of the issues raised by the conflict, but also their
parents . In the first chapter, Why did we fight? Jones explores Bosnian people
s reasons and justifications for the war, as well as their feelings before and
after the war. While children cannot quite spell out (do not know) the reasoning for not liking other ethnic groups after
the war, adults are more likely to blame each other, or accuse political leaders
of wanting the conflict. Jones emphasizes that
In the second chapter, What became of our neighbors? , Jones asks children and their parents about their former neighbors what happened to them, and if their refugee status bothers them. Sentiments of indifference and disinterest pervade the children s statements, not only in regard to the fate of their friends from different ethnic groups, but also in regard to the search for a reason why their homes were destroyed in the first place. In the vast majority of cases, Jones notes that there is no dialogue between parents and children on war and its consequences. Both parents and children say that they want to protect each other from distress which could be triggered by memories of the war. While exploring the question of responsibility for the war, Jones said that almost all said that they had worked these things out from themselves by watching television or listening to adults talking .
is this? might sound like an odd question to ask children, yet in the first
paragraphs of the third chapter Jones assures readers that it is not, especially
in a country like post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. What would seem to be a
simple question to ask a child is not in post-Dayton
same, many children felt that no
matter how good relationships had been before, war had generated so much hatred
that living together now would be impossible. Finally, while living
together for Serb children would mean loss of the war and their parents struggle
and sacrifices had been for noting, for Muslim children only a unified and mixed
chapter of the second part, Where do they come from? , is an exploration of
Muslim and Serb origin, history and identity. Jones also addresses the issue of
the current educational system that tends, in both ethnic groups, to play the history game, with the selective
use of facts. The result is that the children from the two ethnic groups
have two different historical perspectives of the same events. Looking back at
the time of the
The last part of the book addresses the war s impact on the children s psychological and social well being. The third part has been further divided into four chapters and begins with War and well-being, which talks about scientific achievements accomplished in the last century with regards to knowledge on war trauma and behavior of children who experienced war. Jones also addresses the discovery of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), its misuse and its wrong interpretations. While children who have experienced terrible events might have nightmares and difficulty concentrating in school, these symptoms could be regarded as an understandable response to tragic events and not necessarily as being abnormal or pathological. Overall, she says, there should be more emphasis on resilience and coping than on vulnerability and illness.
natural disasters, continues Day after Day, and in
of Madness and being able to give meaning to one s experience appears to be
protective, both when terrible events occur and afterward. In the third chapter
Jones discusses with children the meaning of the war. Jones findings contrast
with those of many studies of children in other countries: in
Punishments , the final chapter of Jones book, was written in late 1996, four
years after her initial trip to
In the Epilogue, Jones briefly
describes her experience from
Olivera Simic is from Bosnia & Heztegovina. She is a masters candidate in the Gender and Peace Building department at the University for Peace.