Our children know that there is a war going on in Ukraine – they probably know more than you think they know. Older kids have access to social media and are seeing images and videos that could be quite frightening. Younger kids are possibly seeing things on the news or hearing things on the school yard. Many parents are wondering if they should talk with their kids about this, and if so, how they should talk about it age appropriately.
Here are my thoughts. I think that we should definitely talk with our kids about this. Talking will actually help make the issue less scary. Our kids can handle a lot more than we give them credit for, especially if they know that they have loving adults who support them and are here to help them through all the feelings they are having about this war.
Here are my tips for having this conversation …
Create the time and space: Free up some time in your day to talk with your kids when everyone is feeling calm and there are no distractions. It might be helpful to check in with your kids a few different times in the day so that you can catch them when they are open to chatting.
Let your kids lead: Ask your kids how they are feeling. Ask them what they are hearing and seeing about the war. Ask them to show you some videos they have watched – watch these videos together. Ask your kids what their thoughts are on all this – and then truly listen to their answers. Ask them if they have any questions.
Admit it when you don’t know: Admit it when you don’t know an answer to your child’s question and work together to look up more information on it. It is so important to show our kids that we don’t know everything, but that we are willing to learn. This helps them feel safe to have a conversation with us about topics that they don’t know much about – this opens the door to future important conversations.
Check sources together: Talk about the need to check sources for the things they are seeing and reading. Talk about the truth that some of the videos or images they see might not be true or accurate. Find some sources you trust to go to for information and share these with your kids. Ask them where they are finding their information and talk about their sources.
Highlight the helpers: Talk about how this war is impacting the ordinary people on the ground – at a level your child can handle. We do need to teach our kids that war hurts ordinary people so that they make better decisions for peace when they are in charge. Then share stories with your kids of the people who are helping. Share stories of strength, courage and compassion.
Take action to help: Find an action you can take to help make things better. You could make a financial donation, support refugees in your community, join a rally in support of Ukraine. Providing your kids with an action they can take will help them feel empowered, inspired and hopeful. Action is the antidote to anxiety, apathy and overwhelm.