As parents, we do our best to protect our children from bad things. Unfortunately, we can’t always keep the reality of bad things happening in the world hidden from them either.
Many children are aware of the current situation in Ukraine, whether they’ve heard it from the news, overheard parents, or friends talking about it, seen comments and images on social media. They may be aware that bombs are going off, people and children are losing their homes and many people and families are trying to leave Ukraine to get to safety.
It’s not an easy topic to bring up with kids and everyone will have a different approach, if your kids haven’t mentioned it, you may choose not to bring it up. Or perhaps you feel they should know about it. Each parent is different. Those of us who are parents, uncles, aunts, here at GoHenry have shared some of the ways we’ve approached talking to our kids about the war in Ukraine. Here are some of the notes we’ve put together, to support each other, with this deeply emotional task.
Ask what they know
There’s a good chance your child has heard about the Ukraine conflict at school, seen it on the news, or spotted posts about it on social media. Some kids may take the lead and ask questions, others may not. If you are wanting to approach them about it, start by finding a time when you can gently bring it up to see what they know. Choose a time where you can be fully available to answer questions and talk through any concerns that come up. Some kids may not really be aware of what’s going on, while others may have heard or seen more and are quietly wrestling with it. Using anecdotes or stories can help with getting a conversation started.
Hearing what they know will allow you to gauge their level of understanding so you can help them make sense of the information they may have seen or heard from various sources, by breaking it down in an age-appropriate way. This is also an opportunity to identify any inaccuracies or assumptions they may have made from the information they received.
That said, you yourself may not have all the answers - and that’s ok. You can always look up answers together, or let them know that you will look into it for them - they’ll appreciate the honesty. There are useful resources available to keep tabs on the situation, as well as guidance on sharing age-appropriate information. For example, the American Psychological Association offers guidance for approaching this conversation with kids. UNICEF is on the ground offering aid to displaced families, and its website also offers advice for parents. Another resource, one of our teammates came across, is this children’s book designed to help answer questions about war to younger kids.
Validate your kids feelings
Let them know it’s ok to feel sad, it’s ok to worry, to be scared, these are natural responses to what is happening in Ukraine right now. Listen to them, answer their questions, no matter how extreme, or emotional, they need to feel comfortable and safe sharing their fears, knowing they will get answers. Kids take cues from us - if we remain calm, it will help calm them. Reassure them that they are safe.
Take an action
Give your child an outlet to express their emotions like writing a poem or story about peace, drawing posters, these actions (no matter how small) can be cathartic and also inspire others around them. Tell them about the people working hard to try and help end the war, and organizations working hard to help those affected by it.
Many charities are now raising money to support families and children in Ukraine. For example, Blue Check Ukraine works with local organizations in Ukraine to help support victims of the war. You may be planning to make a donation or participate in fundraisers, this is an opportunity to get your kids involved. Whether you talk them through a donation you are making, or they decide to make a donation with their own money, this allows them to take action towards making a difference.