BAMBERG, Germany — The war on Iraq could make history and social studies classes more interesting for students in stateside schools.

But for children in Department of Defense Dependents Schools, the war is much more personal. The lessons doesn’t end in the classroom; it follows them home, where one or both parents might be absent — deployed to the front lines.

“Some of my thoughts are how this [war] is going to affect me later — job-wise and economy-wise,” said Christopher Davis, a Bamberg High School senior. “I wonder if my dad is going to get deployed, and when I join, will I get deployed?” Davis, a German citizen, is planning to join the German military when he graduates.

Other students have concerns about the war in general.

“Since I’m in Germany, I wonder if [Iraq] will start coming here and bombing us,” said eighth-grader Javaris Ford, also from Bamberg High School, which houses the middle school, as well. “Also, I think about if the war will be over soon so all the fighting will end.”

Since the students spend a good part of each day in the classroom, teachers are making sure to look for signs of stress or depression, will serve as good listeners and will lend support to the children. That support can be as simple as allowing classroom discussions on the war.

“[The war] doesn’t come up a lot in my classes, but it comes up,” said Charles Brunelle, U.S. history and economics teacher at Bamberg High School, on the war’s second day. “When it does come up, I put the lesson on the back burner, and we have a discussion.

“The seventh- and eighth-grade students are the most emotional about the war. When they saw that it was about to start, they showed more anxiety. They’re worried about their loved ones.”

At Wiesbaden Middle School, classroom discussions on the war come up even in English class.

“The kids are very, very concerned,” said English teacher Sally Jones. “It comes up almost every day in every class. They see the news, and ask about the stories they’ve seen. Often, they have misinterpreted a news story.”

Jones said she doesn’t begin the discussions, but takes a break from the lesson if students bring it up.

“I guide the discussion, but let them do the talking,” Jones said. “We must respect each other’s points of view. I tell them to make their own decisions, and that it is OK to have different opinions or points of view.”

Such classroom discussions offer some of the best medicine, according to Sandra Sacco, school psychologist for Bamberg’s elementary and high schools.

“These are what we call teachable moments,” Sacco said. “Maybe a student in the room will say something about the war, and the whole class goes silent. A teacher could simply ignore it and move on. Or, he could say: ‘You know, I think I’d like to talk some more about that.’ It’s the perfect time to let children give voice to their feelings.”

One week into the conflict, there had been no signs of dips in attendance at either of the schools in Bamberg. Although DODDS-Europe doesn’t track daily attendance at the theater level, a spokesman said that he didn’t think attendance was significantly impacted by the war.

“I think parents realize that school is an important factor in the routine of [a child’s] daily life,” said Frank O’Gara, DODDS-Europe spokesman. “For the students to stay home and watch this on Fox News all day would not be good.”

At Bamberg High School, counselors identified all students who have a parent deployed to the Middle East and met with each individually.

“They haven’t been in to see me with any problems [since the initial meeting], but students at this age — in high school — are not always willing to seek help, said Carol Kabonick, a counselor from Bamberg High School. “If one of their parents is deployed, they may feel they need to hold it together so as not to add more stress to the parent still at home.”

Or they may have been asked to become the “man of the house,” Sacco said.

“Although it’s done with good intentions, this is an extraordinary amount of stress to heap on a child,” Sacco said. “What happens if mom is having problems coping, and she cries a lot. The child thinks it is his fault and that he failed.”

However, when teens do come forward to voice their concerns about the war, the best thing a parent or teacher can do is to listen, Kabonick said.

“Be there for them,” she said.

“Take them very seriously,” added Brunelle. “They need to know that their concerns are being accepted and understood.”

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