We are extremely saddened by the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and we know families might be struggling with how to deal with this. Over the last two years, we have spoken many times about talking to your children about current events, scary news headlines and stressful situations at home, school or in communities. We encourage you to read old blog posts (click here) for additional information. We wanted to provide guidance about how to talk to your children about Ukraine and helping them deal with any stress or anxiety they might be feeling.
For starters, it is important to acknowledge that your child has likely already heard something about what is going on in Ukraine. If you have a school age child, they have probably heard talk from friends and if they have social media, they definitely know something is going on. As caretakers, we might feel inclined to hide what is going on to protect them, but today children can find out almost anything on their own, so it is important to have conversations and be sure you give them the facts.
Start by asking your child what they already know about what is going on between Russia and Ukraine. After they tell you what they know, be sure to ask where they got their information (especially for children with social media). As adults, we know that not everything online is true, but children might have a harder time filtering through misinformation. Prior to starting this conversation, do some of your own research so you can be sure you know the extent of what is happening in Ukraine.
The way you talk to your children and how much information you provide depends on the age of your child. If your children have big gaps in age, we recommend having separate conversations with each child. Keep in mind the goal of the conversation, clear up any misinformation and answer their questions. You can let your child guide the conversation, and don’t push them if they seem resistant when you bring up the topic. For tweens and teens, who are accessing information from social media, it is important to explain to them that not all sources are reliable. Sit with them and learn about what’s going on together, they might actually like sharing this with you. For younger children, it is okay to provide less detail.
It is hard for anyone to comprehend why this is happening, so children might be having a particularly hard time. Remember, kids can easily pick up on your anxiety as a parent so try to stay calm during this conversation but do not pretend like you don’t have feelings. Encourage your child to share how they are feeling and help them identify why they might be feeling that way. Normalize any feelings they might have by telling them it is okay to feel sad, angry or scared. Remind your child that what is happening is far away and you will always be there to protect them.
Finally, kids might want to know what they can do to help. Here is some information about places to donate and actions you can take as a family to help Ukraine: How Americans can help people in Ukraine – The Washington Post
As always, if you have additional questions, please call our 24/7 Parenting HelpLine at 1-800-243-7337.