As conflicts in Ukraine escalate, children may see and hear things about the crisis through news headlines, social media, friends discussing the topic at school, or overheard conversations from adults. Situations like this can lead to feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.
Children might have questions about the images, stories, and conversations they are seeing and hearing. Parents and caregivers should address them. Here are some tips on how to approach these conversations with children:
Find Out What They Know
- Ask your kids questions to find out what information they already know about. They may have formed a completely different picture of the situation than you have. Take the time to listen to what they think, and what they have seen or heard.
- Consider your child’s age and development. Younger kids may not grasp the difference between fact and fantasy. For most kids, it’s not until they are 7 or 8 years old that they understand what’s happening in the news is real.
- Follow your child’s lead during the conversation. If your child doesn’t seem interested in an event or doesn’t want to talk about it at the moment, don’t push.
Honesty is the Best Policy
When having conversations about topics such as war, it is important to stay honest, and acknowledge that it is ok not to have all the answers.
- Listen carefully to your child and help them feel safe by trying to calm any fears they may have. If your child asks a question that stumps you, say you’ll help them find the answer. Spend time together looking for an answer on age-appropriate websites like CBC News Kids or Newsforkids.net.
- Talk about what you can do to help. After a tragic event, finding ways to help can give kids a sense of control. Look for news stories that highlight what other people are doing to help communities in need.
- Always acknowledge your child’s feelings and remind them that it is not their problem to solve. While it is important to be informed on the issue, they should not feel guilty about playing, seeing their friends, and doing the things that make them happy.
- Stay calm when approaching these conversations. Children often copy the sentiments of their caregivers. If you are uneasy about the situation, chances are your child will be uneasy as well.
Limit Exposure to the News
- Decide what and how much news is appropriate for your child. Think about how old your kids are and how mature they are. Encourage them to take breaks from following the news, especially when the topics are difficult.
- Keep tabs on the amount of difficult news your child hears. Notice how often you discuss the news in front of your kids. Turn off the TV so the news is not playing in the background all day.
- Set limits. It’s OK to tell your kids that you don’t want them to have constant exposure and to set ground rules on device and social media use.
- Watch the news with your child and talk about it. Turn off a story if you think it’s not appropriate for your child.