Lisa Crouch, associate director of Children’s Disaster Services, a program within Brethren Disaster Ministries, has offered some helps and hints for talking with children about the situation in Ukraine:
Children may see or hear things on the news or at school that bring awareness to the situation in Ukraine. They may experience some anxiety, fears, and concerns. Other children may not. I think the following situational tips are important and can be applied in many types of disasters when children are involved:
— Let the child lead the conversation–if they don’t bring it up, that is okay. Don’t force conversation.
— If they do bring it up, listen to them closely, ask a few questions to gain an understanding of what they know.
— Use that basis of understanding to validate their feelings.
— Really listen, attempt to soothe or calm fears, but never dismiss their feelings as invalid.
— When explaining, try to use simple terms that are age-appropriate for your child. Avoid words like “bombing” and “invasion.” Every child is different, and older children may be okay with those terms. But younger children may just need to know that sometimes countries fight, and there are a lot of adults trying to make it better.
— Usually a child’s primary concern is “are we safe?” Try to reinforce to them a feeling of safety and that the conflict is happening far away from here.
— Avoid watching the news with your child present–this will only increase fears and misunderstanding.
— Reach out to support systems if you or your child are having a particularly difficult time. Sometimes leaning on a friend is the best support, but also know that it is okay to ask for professional help as well.
Since 1980, Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has been meeting the needs of children by setting up childcare centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers across the nation. Specially trained to respond to traumatized children, CDS volunteers provide a calm, safe, and reassuring presence in the midst of the chaos created by tornados, floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural and human-caused disasters. Find out more at www.brethren.org/cds.
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