A child can now be exposed to media content about the attack on Ukraine, see the worried faces of adults, or hear discussions about the situation. It is not always possible to protect children from scary media content and worrying world events, although it is good to try. Find out how to discuss scary and worrying things with your child.
Talking with Kids about War, Resources for Teachers and Parents:
- How to Talk to Kids About Violence, Crime, and War – Common Sense Media
- How to talk to your children about conflict and war – UNICEF
- Talking to Your Kids About War – Very Well Family
- What to Tell Children About War: Tell the Truth, Keep it Simple – The Harvard Gazette
- How to Talk to Children About War: An Age-by-Age Guide – Today
- Talking about War and Violence in the World – TeacherVision
- Helping Children Cope with Frightening News – Child Mind Institute
- The Day War Came – a children’s book by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
First and foremost, relax.
If you are anxious, distressed, or afraid, it may be difficult for you to understand what the child is going through. The child’s dread and insecurity are exacerbated by the adult’s agitated demeanor. It’s a good idea to try to keep your cool in a stressful scenario. If you feel yourself becoming overly concerned in front of the child, though, it’s a good idea to talk the kid through the incident and re-establish a sense of security.
It is important to find ways of calming your own mind and body so that you are able to take in the child’s experience and emotions and calm the child as well. The child senses emotional states in the adult’s body language and voice and notices if there is a conflict between words and essence.
Adults should discuss and address their own concerns and fears about the situation so as not to pass them on to the child. Talk to a friend, partner, or other trusted adult about your feelings and concerns. If you do not have anyone close to you to turn to, organizations such as organizations and family centers can help you talk about your concerns.
Note the child’s experience
It is good to remember that children do not experience things as adults do. The age and developmental level of the child will have a significant impact on how the child is able to process the images they see and the disturbing news and adults they hear. For example, a child may experience fear that what he or she sees in the news will be frightening for him or her or someone close to him or her. The child may also have a fear of death. Worries and fears are often greater the closer the frightening things happen to us.
Every parent knows their child best. If there are changes in his or her appearance or behavior, it is a good idea to stop and talk to the child. You can ask the child directly “I can see that something is bothering you. Would you like to tell me what it is?” It is important that the child is not left alone with their experiences, concerns, or questions.
Accept a variety of responses
Children are individual in how they react to images and news that they perceive as scary. Some express fear directly, for example by crying, covering their eyes (hiding), or leaving the scene. Some children may ask direct questions or make inquisitive comments.
Sometimes it is difficult for the child to find the words, some will close themselves off from the experience. In this case, the feeling of fear or embarrassment may manifest itself as abnormal anxiety or bodily distress. Difficulty falling asleep or nightmares may also be signs that something is weighing on the child’s mind. War-themed games and drawings can also be a way for the child to deal with the issue.
Strengthen a sense of security
It is a good idea for the adult to reinforce the child’s sense of security. You can hug, hold or hold hands if it feels good for both of you. You can also say, “I understand that what you see and hear scares you. Now we are here at home together, we will be fine. What kind of thoughts did what you saw trigger?”
You can also calmly tell the child about your own feelings. “I find this scary and worrying too. When I’m scared, I’m relieved that…”
You can also use the map to explore with your child where in the world things are happening. This can help to distance the issue from the child’s mind.
Show interest and allow time
Be interested in the child’s experience. The importance of giving time, space, and presence is emphasized. It is good to stop and listen to the child’s perspectives, even if they may sound silly to an adult. You can also ask older children what they already know about the topic and what it evoked in them. Is there anything your child is still wondering about?
It’s good, to be honest with your child. You can tell him or her about things in a calm, age-appropriate way. By being honest about what is happening, the child will not be tempted to use his or her imagination to color what is happening and the resulting threats, which can reinforce the fear he or she feels.
Keep familiar routines
Routines create a sense of security in everyday life. Sticking to them and anticipating them In everyday life, routines provide a sense of stability. Sticking to them and expecting them aids your child’s emotional regulation. Everyone gets a respite from worrying and scary things when they do lovely things together.
Take into account how much time you spend on devices and screens. Even for an adult, how much news is enough in a day?