Approaching conversations about difficult topics with your kids is a challenge every parent has to face, whether that’s climate change or war, it can be a daunting and awkward task. Nowadays, the internet has given children access to some not-so-savory content, including circulating images of the recent conflict. This type of media can trigger anxiety and concern in many, so as a parent, it’s important to discuss this subject with your kids.
Take into account age and temperament
At different ages, your kids will have different levels of awareness regarding war, death, and the world at large. For younger children, use simple language accompanied by visual cues – such as a world map to show where Ukraine is located. For teenagers, a more open dialogue may be appropriate. Start by asking questions such as, “Have you heard about the war In Ukraine?” Or “What do you know about what’s going on?” And importantly, “How are you feeling about it?”
The temperament of your child should also be taken into account. If they are particularly anxious then maybe more limiting information is better.
Create an open environment
Creating an open environment for your child’s feelings is important. This atmosphere lets them know their parents are there to help healthily process their emotions.
It’s extremely important to first respond to their thoughts and feelings with validation. Parents often instinctively try to fix their kid’s problems or be unintentionally dismissive, consequentially invalidating their feelings. Your initial reaction should be from a place of understanding and then discussion and education can follow if needed, creating a comfortable environment for expression.
Be aware of your stress
Children are extremely intuitive, and your anxiety can be very contagious. It’s important that as a parent, you check in with your own emotional well-being and model healthy behavior. For example, consuming news for an appropriate amount of time each day to keep informed but avoid “doom scrolling.”
Keep an eye in on their behavior
Signs like trouble sleeping at night, difficulty going to school, appetite changes, and disinterest in previous hobbies may all be signs of anxiety. Just letting them know you’re there for them to talk to and that you will do whatever to make them feel safe can be very powerful. Helping children put a name on emotions can be a great way to bring some understanding to their feelings. Professional help is also an option if your child needs some extra guidance navigating this difficult time.