Talking Conflict and War
Everyone will be aware of the distressing news and scenes that are being broadcast from the invasion of Ukraine. As an adult it is hard enough to know how to manage our exposure and response to this news. For parents and carers, it may be even more difficult to know whether or how to talk about this with their children.
Regardless of age, all children and young people may be more aware of what war is than we realise. Words such as ‘bombing’ or ‘invasion’ may provoke anxieties, but understanding how to approach the subject will help to put these are ease.
It is important to be honest and open with children, whilst being as reassuring as possible. In this case, it is true that for people living in Ukraine, the Russian invasion is an awful tragedy; it is natural to feel sad and upset that people are being killed in this war. It is very unlikely to spread to other countries and we are a very long way from Ukraine so the war will not come to the UK. Sometimes it is helpful to suggest a positive action to take as a family, such as donating or raising money for organisations supporting refugees.
Bozena Merrick, CEO of Terapia, comments: “Establishing the facts by pointing older children to trusted, reputable sources may explain the what, where, when, why and who, but it’s important that young people explore a range of diverse perspectives to fully understand and form their own viewpoints. If they want to talk about it further, encourage debate, and ensure they understand and accept that there isn’t always an answer to everything.
“Younger children may see coverage in the news, over the radio or simply overhear things in the playground, so don’t assume they don’t know what is going on. Very young children may not fully understand the coverage and repetition of images, but those that have already been impacted by an event, such as the loss of someone in an event, are most vulnerable to negative effects from excessive media exposure.”
What parents can do to help:
Watch and Discuss
To gain a better understanding of how coverage may impact children, watch what they watch. Discuss the stories with them, asking about their thoughts and feelings about what they saw, read or heard. Actively listen to their questions and answers. And if you don’t know all the answers to their questions, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know.
Clear Up Any Misunderstandings
Younger children also may have greater difficulty separating fantasy from reality. It may be difficult for them to differentiate between scary movies and actual real-life events. Clarifications to correct misunderstanding and confusion can be reassuring. It is important not to make assumptions about what your children are thinking, but to find out what they are worried about and then discuss their worries with them.
Staying up to date with the latest coverage of the Ukraine war will help you answer questions and debate with your child(ren). Understanding the latest updates, releases from Ukraine directly will help you feel confident in talking to your family further.
Should the effects of the Ukraine war cause further anxieties for the children and young people in your household, our cost-effective therapeutic services allow a safe space to talk. Our services are provided by psychotherapists in training who provide therapy to clients as part of their professional development, with the support of rigorous, regular, in-house clinical supervision with a Terapia supervisor.
To find out more or self-refer please click here.