Tips on how to talk to children about the war in Ukraine

ended 07. March 2022

A journalist at the Mail Online is seeking views from parenting experts and psychologists about how parents can speak to their children about the war in Ukraine. She is after specific tips about what phrases to say/avoid, how to bring up the topic and answer questions, etc. Deadline is tight so go go go.

2 responses from the Newspage community

When it comes to speaking to children about the current conflict, it is vital we support them in fostering a level of understanding that is appropriate and to validate their feelings. Some of the important things to consider are: Age-appropriate language and detail, as younger children will have been exposed to fewer external sources, and for the youngest may need to know that countries have fallen out but not require any expansion on that. Being curious about what they already know can give them space to express what they know and make them feel like they are being listened to. It also gives a chance to supportively challenge misinformation and understand how they are currently feeling. Validate their feelings, if they say they are worried, don't deny them that feeling, but normalise that it's understandable while highlighting that there have been many conflicts that have been resolved and that there are many people actively working to make a difference. If your child shows interest, look for ways you can support others together. Maintain your own emotions and try to keep these balanced when talking to children, as they are receptive and will mirror how you are feeling. It's important that as adults we don't automatically assume they see the conflict the same way as we do, and they might have a different point of reference or something else that is making them feel worried or anxious. If your child is curious, search for information together from verified reliable sources, and ensure they see all the positive efforts of others supporting refugees and the wider situation. Be mindful of going into too much detail or using emotive language such as World War Three, nuclear bombing and death. Children usually question until they have an answer they are happy with, and some children will be happy just to know it's being worked on to come to a conclusion. Use your words to make it sound like you feel safe and not in any danger, and your child will pick up on this. If they don't come and talk to you, don't force it, but be mindful of changes in their routine or behaviours that might signal that they are worried or anxious. When they do speak to you, be present and give them your full attention. Just doing this makes them feel more secure and that they have been heard. And be mindful of what you say when they are in earshot, children are like sponges and will pick up on things you say when your not talking to them directly. Say: "It's okay to feel scared, I'm here to listen." Don't say "Don't be frightened, there's nothing to worry about." Lee Chambers - https://leechambers.org - Happy to answer any specifics this morning
"When it comes to anxiety it can be helpful to think of a tennis ball. Imagine that you suddenly find you are holding it because someone has thrown it to you. You wouldn't necessarily have gone looking for one but here you are holding it all the same. However, just because we have it in our grasp doesn't mean we need to carry it around all day. Instead we can acknowledge it by gently giving it a squeeze and then choose to put it down. This can be a really useful strategy for people of any age because it makes the concept of anxiety more external and gives some control too."