Our children are not immune to the stresses of the world around us. With the current attack on Ukraine, your children may be struggling with fear, confusion, and anger, among other feelings. As a parent, it’s important to know how to talk to children about this situation and other types of global conflict in a productive and sensitive way. Here are some tips to help you guide the conversation.
Avoid Making Assumptions
A common mistake for parents is assuming that children are not aware of war. Through social media, television, overhead adult conversations, and direct conversations at school, even young children are likely to have some level of awareness of the attack on Ukraine. Start the conversation by asking what they know about the situation and how they feel. You may be surprised at the specific concerns that your children have. For example, they may be worried for their own safety or the safety of loved ones, or they may be worried about the impending threat of nuclear war.
It’s also helpful to enter the conversation after doing some research of your own. The current events in Ukraine and Russia are complex, and it’s helpful to look to trusted news sources to get a clearer idea of what exactly is going on, so you can clear up any misconceptions your own children may have.
No matter what your child is feeling, it’s critical to validate their feelings and let them know that what they are feeling is normal. You may feel that their level of stress is unfounded, but it’s important to remember that with a child’s perception of the current conflict, they may not understand that it is not happening directly in their community. Approach your children with empathy and consider ways to be proactive in addressing their fears. For example, you may attend local cultural events, donate to relief funds, or volunteer with local refugee organizations.
Be Open to Questions
You’ll probably need to have multiple conversations with your children, and they may have lots of questions that come up. Know that it is okay if you do not have the answer right away. You might even do some research together to come up with an answer.
If your child is struggling with anxiety, fear, and behavioral changes, MeMD can connect you with a licensed therapist specializing in child and adolescent therapy. We provide 25- or 50-minute sessions for kids from ages 10-17 as well as adult therapy for parents needing help coping with their own stress and worries.