Talking with your child about the Ukraine war
Over the past two years, many children have been worried about covid: Will the virus come to Denmark? How might I be affected by it? Can you die from covid? What about my grandparents? What's the situation back home?
Adding to all these questions, many children have been affected by the requirements for social distance, extra hygiene and not being able to go about their everyday lives like normal. There have been good reasons for anxious thoughts and emotions.
Now there’s a war in Europe, children are once again faced with uncertainty. So how do we best support our children? Below, a few pointers to keep in mind:
Listen to your child’s worries
It’s natural for children to become worried of the risk of war in their own country. Regardless of your own anxieties, it’s important to self-soothe so you can reassure your child that it is indeed unsettling that there’s a war, but that there is no risk of war in Denmark.
Accept and acknowledge that your child is worried; and remember, that your child will feed off your fears – as such, keeping these in check when talking with your child is key.
If you child doesn’t show any interest in the conflict, avoid pressing anything upon them.
Avoid unneccesary details
If your child asks further into the conflict, you can explain that Russia and Ukraine have fallen out as they disagree over who owns which country. Furthermore, reassure them that many countries are helping them come to an agreement, and that much is being done to help the people affected by the war.
Answer your child’s questions as briefly as possible and avoid adding details which they haven’t asked about. Going further into matters will only instigate more worry.
Even if with the best of intentions - in this case, to protect your child, lying to your child should always be avoided. It’s important that children learn that they can trust their parents to always be truthful; if not, they may develop a mistrust in people which they will carry into their adult life. Simple, age-appropriate explanations are much better than telling a lie.
Shelter your child from adult talk
The war is bound to have an unpleasant and worrying effect on all of us, and it’s natural to have a need to discuss the conflict with your partner, family and friends. Be mindful, that children have “long ears” and good imaginations – keep such talk away from children at all times.
Show compassion for the people of Russia and Ukraine, but be mindful that any adult worry might be internalised by children and made to become their worry. Be mindful of displaying congruence between what you show your child and what you tell them.