Talking About Ukraine With Our Children
When events in the world are scary and tragic, it's totally understandable to want to protect our children from it. Our instinct is to let them keep believing that the world is safe and that bad things don't happen, for as long as possible.
But children are incredibly attuned to our emotional states. They easily sense when something's going on or when things aren't right. Without an adult to explain what is happening, children’s imaginations often create scenarios that are even worse than reality.
There is a war in Ukraine. This is all over the news, all over social media, all of our hearts and minds. If we don’t get in front of explaining this to our children, they will explain it to themselves.
This particular war is creating whispers of worst case scenarios. If you are talking about it, reading about it, and watching it unfold on TV at home, be sure that your children are aware. It’s okay to have strong feelings about current events, and for your children to see your emotions, but they need to know that you can take care of yourself, and that you can take care of them.
How to have the conversation with our school aged children:
- Take a deep breath, so you are calm. It can help to physically put your hand on your heart to soothe your nervous system.
- See what they know. “You may have heard about what is happening in Ukraine. I’m curious what you know, and I’m here to answer questions.”
- Be honest and clear. “Russia has invaded Ukraine, and as with any war, people will be hurt and killed. That’s why you’re seeing so many grown-ups who are so sad. You are safe, we are safe, but we care about the experience of people even when they are far away.”
- Pause. Let the information land. See what your child has to say.
- Listen. Make room for any reaction. Your child does not need to be interested, or sad, we just need to tell them so that they don’t pick up and misunderstand.
- Describe the age-appropriate facts. If your child has questions, look up answers together on child-friendly news sources, like Newsround. This is not one conversation, but an ongoing discussion.
- When you can’t answer a question, acknowledge it. These are complicated questions. Get comfortable with the idea that we can’t solve these problems for our children or ourselves, but that we can help make peace with the sadness and uncertainty.
- Stick to routines. Whenever things in the world feel uncertain, even far away, it’s important to lean on routines to keep things as stable as possible for your child. This is also helpful to manage your own emotions and be present for your family.
- If you notice your child is having anxiety around current events, after this discussion or at any point, let them know that you are there. Reassure them that it makes sense to feel anxious right now.
Please keep in mind that there is really never a reason to expose children to TV news reports and graphic details of scary topics. Large doses of media coverage can be very harmful - even to adults. The news is built on keeping an audience engaged and anxious. Turn it off the minute you feel yourself being overwhelmed.
At school, we want to show that we care about people even when they are far away. We will be planting sunflowers, the National Flower of Ukraine, to show our thoughts and prayers are with the People of Ukraine. For tips on how to grow a sunflower, please look in, 'Useful Links', on this page.
With your amazing generosity, we have raised £508.05 for the Ukraine Crisis Appeal. Thank you!