It’s happening again. The news is full of war, despair and destruction. Long after we close our eyes, the images and sounds stay with us. It seems the more information we receive the more questions we have, and the more our hearts ache for those affected. So what can we do, and how do we help our kids?
- First, consider their age and developmental level. Five year olds process differently than 16 year olds, and those with histories of trauma process differently from those without. Some kids are more prone to anxiety, while others seem oblivious to what is happening around us. Some are interested in history and current events, and others only seem interested in fun and games. Age, stage, personality and interest are important to consider before allowing kids access to the current events and answering what questions arise.
- Monitor the amount, source and content shown. Science tells us that brains are not fully developed till mid to late twenties, and the last area of the brain to be developed is the area that controls reasoning and logic. Why does that matter? It means kids will most likely respond to what they experience out of emotion, and too much of any horrific news will have an impact on their emotional regulation. Please be vigilant in monitoring not just what, but how much they are seeing, hearing and reading. And, as always, be sure that sources are reputable and action oriented.
- When they ask, answer their questions in age appropriate ways. Our recommendation is that when kids asks questions, they need and are ready to have age appropriate answers. They don’t need doom and gloom, but they need truth and relevant conversation. And when we don’t have answers, it’s okay to say that we don’t know.
- Validate their feelings. Kids’ responses may range from tearful, to anxious, to aloof. No matter what they feel, their emotions need met with understanding and validation. Emotions are simply indictor lights letting us know what’s happening inside, and emotions need tended to in safe and healthy ways. If your child is sad or distraught, provide comfort and teach them how to find comfort in healthy ways.
- Do something to make a difference. Use the events of the day to become action oriented. For example, if your families is involved in adoptions, find a Ukrainian adoption organization and learn what help they need; or if your family is involved in education, find a school asking for specific help. Consider donating to your favorite cause or church who is active in the helping process.
- Let them be kids. Allow your kids to ask the questions and feel the feels. Try turning off social media and the news and enjoying an old fashion meal and board games at home. Providing normalcy can help put their minds at ease, and open the door to further conversation and action.
- Seek help. If you notice your child or teen seems pre-occupied, distracted, extra worried, moody, or if you notice sleeping/eating patterns are changing, it might be time to reach out for help. No one enjoys struggling, and there comes a time in all of our lives when having a safe space to hear and process our thoughts and feelings is needed.
In the meantime, take a look at our list of suggestions and apply them to yourself as well. We may be adults with reasoning abilities, but we also need space to heal, and places to process how we are impacted as well.
Thank you for loving your kids, for caring about our community and world, and for linking arms with us as we work to bring you practical solutions for positive change. As always, we’re here for you.
Engaging families for stronger communities,
April Bordeau is the Managing Director of Care to Change and also a licensed therapist, with more than 25 years experience helping families in crisis.