How to talk with your kids about Ukraine
Given the current events of the last week, you may wondering if and how you should be talking to your kids about what is going on in Ukraine. We have compiled some advice below.
Consider your child's age and maturity, and be cautious about exposure to the news.
PRESCHOOLERS: "Kids this young should not be exposed to the news, but they may overhear things, or hear from their friends. If your child raises the issue, ask what they've heard."
SCHOOL-AGE (6-9): Kids this age also should not be watching or listening to adult news, but they may be more curious about what they are overhearing. Even if they don't bring it up, it is appropriate to ask if they've heard about it.
PRETEEN (10-12): "Kids aged ten and up will be very interested in what's happening, so don't hesitate to discuss it with them. However, be aware that their sophistication can mask anxiety."
Remember that visual images are extremely powerful. For adults, photos and videos can sometimes be appropriately shocking to move us to action, but for kids, videos of tragedy can be very frightening, so limit their exposure.
Ask what they've heard, how they are feeling, and what questions they have.
Ask if they've heard about what's happening in Ukraine, and what they've heard.
Ask what they think about it / how they are feeling about it.
Ask them what questions they have. You might not know the answers, but you can always say, "That's a good question. Let me think about it (or try to learn more) and get back to you." Sometimes there are no clear answers, and you can acknowledge the complexity and the challenges of international conflict - the reality of living in a broken world.
Acknowledge their feelings without diminishing them
Accept any fears they may express: "It could be scary to hear that," and reassure them that this is happening very far away and they are safe.
Empathize with their feelings, but remember that they are looking to you for cues about how to respond.
You can't promise that nothing bad will happen to them, but you can reassure them that all the rest of the world leaders are working together to try to make sure the fighting doesn't get worse.
Share stories of resilience. This might be from your own life, your family history, or Bible stories.
Explore some Psalms where David talks about his fears with God – Psalms 22, 23, 27, 34, 46, 88, 139 for example. What might God be saying to us through these?
Give them age-appropriate information
For young kids, "explain that sometimes even grownups forget to use their words and that can lead to fighting, which hurts people and is always sad."
Look at a map to understand where Ukraine is located.
For older kids, a brief history of Ukraine and the Soviet Union might help them understand some context of conflict in the area
Look for the helpers. Where can we see love in action?
This video is one example - it names what is happening, acknowledges the sadness, and looks for helpers: https://youtu.be/qq4J00louRs
Remind them that although Russia's leader wants to invade Ukraine, many Russian people disagree, and are protesting. Just because a leader is making certain choices doesn't mean Russian people are bad.
Invite them to respond
"Ask if they would like to draw a picture and to send love to the Ukrainian people."
Offer practical support. Here are some ideas: https://www.npr.org/2022/02/25/1082992947/ukraine-support-help
This may not all happen in one conversation. It may happen in bits and pieces, or come up at weird times. Be attentive to the Holy Spirit's prompting.
How have you approached this with your kids? Any other thoughts or tips?
Ileen Urban, 2nd-3rd grade teacher at Discovery Charter School