Ways to Help Children in Response to the Conflict in Ukraine

Guidance for Families to Discuss the Situation in Ukraine

World events, like accidents, natural disasters, mass violence, civil disorder, war and conflict can impact individuals, classes, schools, communities and beyond, depending on their nature and scope. 

How your child will react to events will vary. Developmental stage, physical or emotional proximity to the event, and prior experience with traumatic circumstances can impact how children respond. Reactions can last for days and sometimes weeks. Typically, they subside over time as we help children talk through feelings, reassure them that they are safe and protected, and help them to gain perspective.

Common reactions to challenging world events

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of focus
  • Anger or irritability
  • Social distancing
  • Physical complaints

How to support children during or after world events

Maintain a calm home environment

  • During challenging times, the reactions of adults will set the tone for children.
  • Maintain regular, predictable routines.
  • Encourage your child to take breaks from the news and social media.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to process the information and be open to discussing their worries.
  • Take opportunities to spend time with your child doing activities that you enjoy as a family to promote connection and allow for conversation to occur naturally.

Support children as they work through strong feelings

  • Listen well and notice how your child is viewing the situation.
  • Keep explanations of events age-appropriate and factual.
  • Calm worries and reassure your child that they are safe.
  • Validate feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, etc. and note that it may take time to work through these emotions.
  • Encourage children to draw on their faith, natural supports, self-care skills, and other sources of strength.
  • Model compassion, positive coping and self-care skills.
  • Help children to notice blessings, helpers, courage, and signs of hope.
  • Help your child to engage in activities that may assist with healing (e.g., write a card, make a donation, etc.).
  • Connect with additional support at the school, board, and community level if your child is struggling and needs additional resources.  Community resources can be located on the Being Well Portal.  

Take care of yourself

Remember to take care of yourself too—for your well-being, and so you’re better able to support your child. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Recognize that grief reactions can last for many days or weeks.

  • Take the opportunity to process the situation and your feelings with your friends, family, and cultural/faith community.
  • Keep regular schedules and routines.
  • Remember to eat, sleep, play, exercise, and laugh.  Give yourself permission for down time.
  • Practice positive ways of coping with sadness, fear, anger, and worry.
  • Ask for help. You don’t have to face this experience alone. You may want to consult with your family physician or contact a local helpline.  Wellness Together Canada also offers supports that may be helpful.

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