That is the question parents are wanting answers to, as we watch this terrifying and gut-wrenching war unfold. As a Therapist, and mom to three kids 7 and under, I understand how challenging and important it is to both be honest and mindful when talking to children about the harsh realities of life, and in this case, war.
The past two years have called on parents to have so many hard conversations about topics like uncertainty, disease, and death so it makes sense that parents are feeling overloaded and overwhelmed when it comes to how to talk about what’s happening in Ukraine. However, I agree with other experts that being honest with our kids is one of the most important things we can do to foster trust in us, as well as their resilience and ability to cope with life and its myriad of experiences.
3 tips for talking to your kids about Ukraine
1. Take their cues
Don’t avoid the topic, and don’t overload them with too much information. For kids 7 and under it might be as simple as telling them “there’s something happening between Russia and Ukraine” and then asking them if they’ve heard anything. Then take the child’s lead and listen. Be selective in what you share and avoid giving big long explanations because they don’t have the capacity to hold that much information without feeling flooded or confused. For older kids, you may present more facts but still, be selective about what you choose to share.
2. Give appropriate reassurance
Kids of all ages mostly want to know these three things: are we safe? Will we be taken care of? How will this affect our day-to-day life? Let them know that they are safe and that there are helpers from all over the world trying to stop what’s happening and aid the Ukrainian people. Focusing on the “helpers” can be a very powerful way to provide appropriate reassurance to children and build their confidence in humanity.
3. Be honest
When kids ask you, “mommy are you worried?” it’s okay to say “yes I am, but it’s okay to be worried- and we can manage these feelings.” It’s important that we use calm, confident tones when talking to our children about difficult topics, but it’s equally important that we share our real feelings with them, modelling that it’s healthy and safe to express our feelings.
Go here to view a longer discussion on this topic.