No matter your personal views, the events unfolding in Ukraine impact all of us to some degree, and children are no different. War is not a novel concept in the world, but the stakes seem to be higher as two large countries are embroiled in a conflict that can potentially draw involvement from other nations as well. Many of us would like to think that we can shield our children from distressing and scary events in the world, but that is not the case. Kids hear and see things even if we try to shield them from it, especially as they get older. If you don't address it with them, they are left to process it themselves or turn to other unreliable sources. As of 2019, more than 50 percent of teens were getting their news primarily from social media. I can imagine that number has only gone up since then.
So, today I would like to share some advice on how to talk with the children in your lives about scary, violent or otherwise traumatic events they may be exposed to:
Be proactive - don't wait for them to come to you
Reassure them in a realistic way
Leave the door open for further discussion
Encourage them to use emotion words and share your own feelings, appropriately
You don't have to know all the answers
Focus on who is trying to help
Avoid blaming or chastising entire groups of people
When you are able to have these conversations with the children in your life, it not only helps to work through the current issue and stress they may be experiencing. These talks will open the door for them to come to you with other questions and concerns they have to ensure that they get reliable and realistic information. It is incredibly important for children to have adults in their lives who model effective ways to discuss difficult issues, manage emotions and resolve conflict. These skills are crucial throughout life and contribute to resilience and overall success in life. A relatively short conversation now can have a ripple of positive effect throughout their development.
This a guest post authored by Dr. Parker Huston, formerly the director of the Nationwide Children's Hospital On Our Sleeves campaign and now owner of Central Ohio Pediatric Behavioral Health. Check out his recent appearance on The Dadass Podcast.
CBUS Dads is a community of central Ohio area dads balancing an active lifestyle with being an involved parent. A Saturday for us may involve enjoying morning t-ball, lunch at a new local spot and an evening at a summer festival with our families. We may live downtown, in the suburbs or somewhere between, but our common thread is that we continue to experience the community we love - now as parents.