Honesty, reassurance: how to tell children about Ukraine

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The pandemic, mass shootings, natural disasters, terrorist attacks. There have been a lot of tragedies and anxiety for parents to deal with with their children. Add to the list Russia’s growing invasion of Ukraine.

As events unfold quickly on television and social media, child development experts are urging parents to check in with kids of all ages, but don’t worry if those conversations are brief.

“For children under 7, it might just be acknowledging that something is going on between Ukraine and Russia and asking: did you hear something? Take the lead from the child,’ said Janine Domingues, a clinical psychologist at the nonprofit Child Mind Institute in New York City.

For all ages, honesty is paramount, she and others said.

“Overall, just rest assured, that’s what we know right now. Let them know you don’t know all the answers, but here are some places we can go,” Domingues said. Across the globe, from the United States to Western Europe, from Japan to South Korea and Australia, countries immediately denounced the Kremlin as Thursday’s fighting sparked fear, sending stocks plummeting and drive up oil prices. President Joe Biden has slapped Russia with some of the broadest and toughest financial sanctions the world’s largest economy can impose.

Karina Serio, 16, of Cecil County, Maryland, hopes to major in Russian and European studies when she goes to college. For now, in her second year of high school, she helps Ukrainian children with their English through an online volunteer organization and moderates a group chat of up to 600 young Ukrainians at a time on the app. Telegram.

“I think it’s scary,” she said. “You know, right now I’m sitting here in my beautiful house and there are people my age sitting in their apartments listening to the sirens going off. They can’t sleep. They don’t know what to do. And I feel bad, like, what can I do? Janice Torres in Brooklyn is one of the parents who are already answering their children’s questions.

“She asked why were they having a war? What if the kids are in school,” Torres said of her 8-year-old daughter. “She saw me cry watching a video of a dad letting his child get on a bus. She told me she’s glad America isn’t at war. She doesn’t want to get on a bus. bus without us.Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of the free online resource center The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said young children, tweens and even older teens have in common fundamental questions in war, whether they verbalize them or not: Am I safe? Are you, the people who care for me, safe? How will this affect my daily life? Well that the invasion, for America’s children, is taking place several thousand miles from home, social media and TV coverage can make it seem like they’re right next door. who witnessed 9/11 on television, who witnessed the Oklahoma bombing on television, who witnessed the Challenger disaster on television, had post-traumatic stress disorder. The media is huge,” Beresin said.

That’s why some experts warn against leaving TV coverage constantly while the invasion unfolds. For very young children, completely unplugging from screens for a while can help. Preschoolers may need more time with a parent or caregiver while they work through their emotions, Beresin said.

“They know things are murky. They know things are problematic. They may ask you if you are worried. Children of all ages may ask you if you are worried. And frankly, you have to be honest. You can say, “Yes, I am, but we can handle this.” We can get out of this. I would spoil them a bit,” he said.

Andrea Barbalich is editor of The Week Junior, a weekly newsmagazine for children ages 8-14 with 100,000 subscribers in all 50 states. She and her team covered Ukraine.

“We are very calm in our tone and we are selective in the facts that we present,” she said.

“We avoid very scary and upsetting information and focus on helping people wherever we can. Right now, for example, thousands of people around the world and many governments are working together to stop the conflict and end the fighting. There are people on the ground helping the injured. There will be humanitarian aid for people who need it. The issue she sent on Tuesday, before the latest outbreak of fighting, focused on the troops massing on the borders, described the shared history between Russia and Ukraine and explained the position of the United States. Next week’s issue will cover the invasion.

“We have already heard from so many parents who have thanked us for covering the story with such candor, and they tell us that they appreciate our calm and factual approach because their children are scared and they didn’t know what to say,” Barbalich said.

For children, said Dr. Nick Hatzis of the Compass Health Center psychiatric outpatient facility in Chicago, the most important step for parents is to “create a space that allows listening.” A conversation about Ukraine can be exactly what some kids want and exactly what others might not, he said.

“There’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth,” said Hatzis, medical director of child and adolescent programs. “We want to make sure that we actively promote our routines, our schedules, by participating in meaningful activities in our lives and those of our children.”

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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