This is a question that I have been asked many times in the last month with regard to the current Ukrainian conflict in Europe.
Parents are concerned as to what to say to their children, whether to say anything at all, and what to call the crisis that is unfolding daily.
In reality, children of all ages will have heard or know something as all will have access to social media, streaming sites, iPads, and mobile phones. It will not be something that has escaped their attention. Many children in our multinational school and across the Algarve will have friends and relatives or know people that are Ukrainian.
Worryingly, many will be feeling anxious and, terrifyingly, it has been reported already that many tweens and teenagers are extremely concerned about the situation, and its implications for Europe and the wider world.
One cannot ignore the situation. It is particularly important to be honest with your children, and to be aware if they seem overly anxious or are spending a lot of time on social media. Let your children know that you are here for them if they want to talk about the current situation now, or when they feel ready. Not all children will want to discuss the situation or will feel anxious about it.
However, it is important not to trivialise the situation by telling children not to worry. It is important to value children’s concerns and anxieties and to talk them through in a calm and positive manner. It is okay to let your children know that you, yourself, are feeling anxious, concerned about the people that it is affecting and, at times, scared. However, take care not to sensationalise the situation.
As a parent, be aware of the effect that constant exposure to the news may have on your children and yourself. Take care to manage your family’s media exposure and the sources from which information is obtained.
As parents, we should give a balanced and rational explanation of the crisis. Be careful to impart your knowledge and understanding clearly and factually. By teaching your children facts about Russia and Ukraine, you will demystify the crisis. Importantly, do not just carry out a random internet search with your child as this could expose your child to horrifying unsolicited scenes.
Our children are not the first to grow up with war dominating the headlines. However, they are the first to be exposed to media around the clock and they need the adults that they trust to reassure them.
Take action as a family. Do something positive that allows some control over the situation. Find out what you can do to help those affected by the crisis.
Organise a collection of clothes and toys from within your home. Get together with friends and neighbours and raise money for much-needed items such as medicines.
At Eupheus, we have responded by arranging collections for essential items that are distributed directly to the Ukraine.
It is through developing this sense of compassion and being able to help that children will be able to make sense and cope with the distressing events that are occurring in the Ukraine.
‘Let us stand in solidarity. Not to a specific country, race or religion but rather to humanity’ – David Vox
By Penelope Best, Head of School,
Eupheus International School, Loulé