How to talk to your children about war
01 March 2022
Sam Wass, Professor in Developmental Psychology from our School of Psychology and the Baby Development Lab, says it is important to talk to your children about war in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
You can watch Professor Wass's interview on Channel 5 below.
1. Clarify the information
The first thing to say is that it is important we talk to our children about what is happening in Ukraine.
These type of things easily spread around the playground as there will always be one child who has seen something on television or heard adults parents it and they will pass that information onto other children.
This child on child communication can actually be a positive way of processing information, which makes it vital that parents control the narrative and ensure our children are saying accurate and appropriate messages.
How we talk about that information varies on how old the children are. However, for any age group we want to be starting with empathy. So thinking how would it be like for us in that situation? What would we do if we were faced with this?
This can be an intense process for children, but it is an important step for them in understanding what is happening.
2. Reassure younger children
For a younger child, their first thought will go to themselves and their own safety - so the message needs to be a reassuring one.
The chances of this spreading to the UK is very low, so reassuring our children that while this is a horrible incident, it is also an issue which is far away. The key is to reassure them that they are in no immediate danger.
3. Empower older children
For older children, they will be more interested in self-actualization - this is focusing on what they can do to make a difference. Here the key message is that we can do something.
A lot of research shows that for older children and adults, we cope better with stress when we feel that we can do something to help ourselves or a situation.
Whether that help be through food, clothes or financial donations, explaining that we have some power to make a difference will go a long way with helping them.
How can you help the people of Ukraine?
There are many ways you can help the 1 million refugees who have fled Ukraine. Below are just some of the many charity organisations who’re accepting donations.
- The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has launched an emergency appeal to help support displaced families from Ukraine.
- The British Red Cross are accepting donations as part of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). Your donations will support the people of Ukraine by providing food, first aid, clean water, shelter support, warm clothing, hygiene parcels and medicines.
- Save the Children are calling for donations in supporting the 7.5 million Ukrainian children who are now in danger.
- See the UK government website for full details on how you can make donations to Ukraine.
Contact us for press and interview requests