Mummy/Daddy what's a war? How do we respond to this question?

Mar 11, 2022
War in the Ukraine

I’m sure we’re all acutely aware of the atrocities happening in Ukraine at the moment and feel anxious and despairing. I know that every time I hear a news story of a family fleeing or worse a family being killed, I feel so desperate for everyone there.

News is constant and it is very compelling to have the radio or TV on in the background and forget that our children are watching and listening.

They’ll hear the stories, the bombings, they’ll see photos children just like them with white anxious little faces.

They will be drawing conclusions and feeling anxious, even if they aren’t able to express that to us.

So what can we do about it?

Here are some tips:

1. Avoid exposing young children to radio or TV news or photos in the newspapers. Even though there’s a war, children mustn’t be exposed to it and risk living in fear. So wait till they go to bed or switch to another programme if they come in the room.
2. If they see us have a strong reaction to the news – a sharp intake of breath, holding our head in our hands, our faces screwed up with anxiety, they will feel much less safe. We need to stay calm at least within their eyesight or earshot.
3. They might ask you a question about the war. First off clarify with them what they’ve seen or heard – there’s no point in giving a long explanation about Putin’s invasion if they are really fearful of a crowded train journey. Ask: “What is it that you’ve heard already?” or “Is there anything specific you are worried about or afraid of?” 
4. Explain briefly that people in Ukraine are having a very hard time and inspire them to contribute. Instead of a sense of helplessness about the pain and suffering of the Ukranians, we can instead talk about everything the world is doing. Talk to them about the Polish mothers leaving prams and buggies at the train stations to give to Ukranian families who arrive.
Or the fact that families are welcoming people into their home to stay.
There are so many incredible news stories of strength and kindness. Then talk about ways your child could help – maybe it is to do a bake sale? We’ve done many of these over the years on the pavement outside our house. It is amazing how generous passers-by will be when seeing a young child selling a scruffy looking cupcake. Or they could draw a picture or say a prayer to send love.
5. As well as clarifying what your child knows, we can respond with things like “It’s scary to hear about other children suffering”. We can tell them that most people in the world are good and kind but sometimes grownups forget to be like that and they fight and hurt other people. Reassure them that the fighting is very far away and that lots of people are helping to stop it. Discuss something kind they could do as above – bake a cake or draw a picture. If you child has pocket money or savings, encourage them to donate to charity.

I hope that helps. If you have any other ideas or questions, please email me [email protected] and share them with me so I can put them on my Instagram to share with others.

I hope you and your family are safe.

Sending my love and best wishes



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