How to talk to your child about the situation in Ukraine

Navigating children’s questions, worries and anxieties about the conflict in Ukraine can seem an overwhelming task. It is difficult to know how to respond to children’s fears when we may be uncertain or fearful ourselves. Additionally, it can be difficult to know what or how much to say in relation to the situation. Emotional Wellbeing National Lead Gosia Bowling shares tips on how to approach the conversation with children.

1. Be available

Make time to listen and give your full attention during the conversation. Give children the time and space they need to express their worries and feelings fully. Encourage children to tell you what they understand, have heard or read about the situation and encourage them to ask you any questions. Remind them that you are there any time they need you.

2. Validate and normalise their feelings

This can encourage children to expand on how they feel and ensures that they feel heard and understood rather than having their concerns dismissed. For example: “You’re feeling scared because you have seen some scary pictures on TV. That’s okay, lots of other people have felt scared too." It can be a huge relief for children to share their worries and to have an open and honest conversation.

3. Recognise different needs

All children are different. Some will only need brief explanations whilst others will ask more questions and require more in-depth explanations. Start with less information to begin with so that children do not get overwhelmed. Be led by the child and build on information as needed.

By staying calm during the conversation you can help children to stay calm too. Answer questions honestly, it helps if you keep informed so that you can anticipate their questions.

4. Provide reassurance

Children, like adults, can feel powerless and helpless and often feel guilty about being unable to help. Tell them that this situation is not their problem to solve and reassure them that lots of adults all around the world are working really hard to resolve the situation.

Remind them that it is okay for them to be happy and encourage them to engage in their day to day activities, without feeling guilty.

5. Plan practical activities

It helps to focus on activities children can do to help. Encourage children to get involved with activities such as fundraising or volunteering at a local charity. Family exercises can also help them to direct their energy to activities they can see making a difference.

6. Support with sleep

If worry and anxiety are having an impact on your child's sleep try the tips in this article to help children develop a healthy sleep routine.

Last updated Friday 4 March 2022

First published on Friday 4 March 2022