Supporting your child to understand what’s happening in Ukraine

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is worrying and can be stressful for everybody in your family, whether you have connections with Ukraine, Russia, other parts of former Eastern Europe, or your child is picking up what’s happening in the news.

Children 1st Parentline are here to lend support and advice about how to support your children to understand what is happening and to manage their worries and anxiety.

For Young Children

It’s important to remember that your child or children will be sensitive to your own anxiety. Young children as they are learning their way around the world can keenly sense if the adults close to them are more stressed or feeling anxious. It’s important to remember that although the conflict is far away young children might not understand the actual physical distance from Scotland to Ukraine and can place themselves as the focus, worried that they too are in harms way.

Sounds can also have an impact: through TV, Radio and smart phones children may be hearing the sounds of gunshots or explosions, people on the tv speaking with urgency and the  voices of children and families in distress. Even if it is background noise, young children may still be picking up a sense of alarm. Even if it is difficult, consider turning off the news and devices or switching to something else when your children are around.  

Your children might also come to you asking difficult questions, they will be hearing words or maybe even seeing things they don’t understand or haven’t seen before. It’s important to make special effort to listen to their questions and answer honestly, not to say ‘Don’t worry about it’ or ‘It wont affect you.’ Leaving a child to fill in any gaps with their own imagination might lead to anxiety or stress as they connect what they’re seeing or hearing to themselves.

Talk to your child about the war in Ukraine as you would about any difficult subject. Following your own instincts as a parent or carer is usually best. Be truthful, but don’t go into more detail than your child can understand. Let your child guide the conversation and finish it when they are ready to finish it. Your child might need extra reassurance or more hugs to let them know they are safe.

Save the Children have many other resources to help you talk to your children about this difficult subject, including this useful blog ‘How to talk to children about war’

For Older Children and Young People

Your older children or teens might be far more informed about the invasion than younger children. They may even know more than you. They might have online friends or classmates from Eastern Europe with a close personal connection to the conflict. Consider talking to your older children about the conflict, even before they talk to you, to help settle any worries.

Young people get a large amount of their news from social media, so they may be seeing potentially disturbing or extreme content, particularly of images of war and people leaving their homes. You can set up parental controls to ensure that most shocking content is filtered but it isn’t completely guaranteed to prevent your children seeing such imagery. Our Children 1st Parentline pages include advice about how to support your child if you feel they have seen disturbing or extreme content and you can also get in touch with us by webchat or on the phone 08000 28 22 33

Remind your child that there can be misreporting of events, particularly on social media and while it can be important to be informed, they shouldn’t take everything they see online as fact.

Listen really carefully to your child questions or feelings – have an honest talk about what is happening in Ukraine and remind them it’s ok to be worried or uncertain. Perhaps encourage them to think about what they can do practically help from where you are in Scotland – by taking part in a fundraiser or collecting donations.

YoungMinds also have a range of resources  for young people to help them make sense of the conflict.

If you and your child have direct experience of similar conflict, the ongoing situation might be bringing back unpleasant memories for your family. It’s important that you reach out to your support networks, friends, family or you can get in touch with us at Children 1st Parentline to get support and advice.

Yourself

Although you might be concerned for your children’s worries about the situation in Ukraine it’s important you take time for yourself and to process your own feelings. Talk about what you feel comfortable with to loved ones or those you trust. At the bottom of this item is a list of useful resources for yourself and your family. 

Remember Children 1st Parentline can also offer a safe space to talk about what is happening and the impact on your family. If you want additional help or advice get in touch with us for free on 08000 28 22 33, by webchat  or email parentlinescotland@children1st.org.uk  We’re here for you seven days a week Mon-Fri, 9am to 9pm, Sat-Sun, 9am to noon.