It has been almost a month since Russia went into war with Ukraine. This news spread like wildfire into every home, school, and establishment. It is the headline in every news show and banner on the internet and is vastly shared on social media sites. Whatever their stand is, people talk about it, and no matter how much we want to safeguard our children from the news, it is just not possible.
The sad thing is that children are exposed to bits and pieces of information and lack the experience and understanding to put it into context. They hear the news everywhere, from their school to their siblings and friends, and even from other adults, and they tend to fill in the gaps in information however they see fit.
This causes elevated levels of stress, anxiety, and fear. According to a survey made by Common Sense and Harvard, in 2017, 63% of children reported that news has a negative effect on their moods and emotions. Not only that, constant exposure to bad news and violence can increase the likelihood of children and adolescents being desensitized to news and developing aggressive behaviors.
As parents, guardians, and teachers, we cannot control everything around our children, and we shouldn’t. Our responsibility is not to shelter them from bad news but to guide them on what’s happening around us. Here are some ways we can help our children make sense of what’s going on with the world and how to teach them about empathy and compassion.
Ask your child about what they know and how they feel.
It is unavoidable that your child may already know bits and pieces of news about the war. The first step is to know what they already know and understand how they feel about the news. This is the best opportunity to correct any misinformation they learned from other people or sources.
Likewise, your children may feel sad, afraid, or worried. This is the opportune time to validate their feelings and reassure them that you will always be there to protect them.
Keep your talks age-appropriate
Children of different ages have different levels of understanding and comprehension. A talk with a 5-year old is different from a talk with an 8-year old. And a talk with an 8-year old is different from a talk with a 12-year old. Choosing the correct words and phrases will help your children understand things on their level of comprehension.
Teach compassion and empathy
Your children will see from the news how people are affected by the war. Instead of focusing on the war itself, divert their attention to organizations and people helping those that are affected. Find stories that highlight people’s good deeds at times of war and conflict.
When you find donation drives, encourage your child to participate by letting them donate their stuff. This will help people in need and help your children alleviate their fears and worries by allowing them to feel that they helped people.
Watch with them and limit their access to news
While we cannot control what they learn outside, we can control the flood of news they see and listen to in our homes. They may ask why war is bad or why war is necessary, and when left unanswered, they will form their own conclusions.
If they want to watch the news, watch with them, so you can give guidance and clarification to things that may cause confusion or misunderstanding. Additionally, if it can be avoided, limit their access to news by switching to different channels when your kids are around.
Constantly check with your children
Bad news will not go away anytime soon. This is why it is crucial to constantly check with your kid and provide assurance. Do not invalidate their feelings, nor expect them to understand after having one talk. By encouraging them to speak their minds and talk about their emotions, you are in a better position to correct any misconceptions and give a sense of security to any worries that they have.
This war may go on for a long time, and when this is over, other strings of news will occur. As adults, it is our responsibility to protect and guide children and prepare and help them process any kind of news. This is what we owe them, and this is what we must do to help raise a generation of loving, compassionate individuals.