Care Givers & Hard Topics
As parents, care givers, grandparents, and mentor communities, we all want the very best for the children we love. But, it can be daunting to approach the subject of conflict between countries and how it may be affecting young minds. At Orphan World Relief, we are aware that hard topics can be tricky. One of the best things to do with the overwhelm associated with hard conversations is to start with some well-researched tools.
As the conflict continues in Ukraine, your little ones may hear conversations and see things about the current hostilities that bring up questions, fears, and anxieties. Caregivers can help children immensely by taking time to talk about pictures, stories, and worries they’ve encountered in their day to day lives.
If we’re honest with ourselves, as adults, there’s uncertainties we are dealing with that can cause emotional stress within us. This gives us some insight into the reality that our children can carry emotional weight they aren’t sure how to process.
“Worry about the war is not all bad—it means that a child has empathy,” said psychologist Mary Alvord, PhD, founder and president of Resilience Across Borders, a nonprofit focused on enhancing childhood resilience. “As long as it’s channeled into action and not bottled up, worry can even be productive.”
Here are 3 ways you can talk with children about war
1 – Take the time to process your own emotions first. Children can pick up on what adults are feeling so learning to manage your own emotions can help give teens, and elementary age kids a model for processing big emotions. Be open with them in sharing that you had emotional stress about the current crisis and how you were able to take time to process it.
2 – Take the time to ask questions. Plan to drop questions that you know you’ll have the time and energy to answer. Being proactive about initiating the subject of conflict with children and teens, is a great way to help them feel comfortable with the topic. Be reassuring and encouraging when fears or anxieties arise with statements that remind them they are safe.
3 – Take time to focus on helping. As conversations within your family come up, talk about how you can be part of the solution as a family. Research together some ways other people are helping in the crisis. Ask your teen or child what things they would like to do to help people in Ukraine.
As caregivers we’re given the honor and privilege to walk alongside the children and teens in our world when tragedy strikes. We get to be the ones that help foster resilience for the next generation not by avoiding emotion but, by facing the difficulty with good tools and in good community. And then stepping out to be part of the solution. The children that learn these skills, they are the ones who can change the world.