When the media floods us with death stories
How to explain to children what war is and why it is happening in Ukraine? From their point of view, it seems even more terrifying because they do not have the experience and knowledge to understand what is happening. The child immediately projects the misfortune on himself and his own family. And when the media floods him with stories of war and death and gloomy predictions, and his parents are worried and constantly comment anxiously on events, his orderly, calm and secure world collapses.
The war not only leads to immediate casualties and destruction, but also deeply affects the lives of children, not just those on the line of fire. Children thousands of miles away experience mental, moral, and value shock. Because the world as we teach them to be – is collapsing. And most importantly, their security, faith in goodness and justice has been shaken.
At this point, it is extremely important to talk to the children – calmly, patiently and clearly, and to give them a sense of security. The National Network for Children gathered opinions of psychologists, pedagogues, experts and parents and summarized them in 12 councils based on its main goal and value – protection of children’s rights and welfare.
1. We must have a clear position that war is evil and nothing justifies it –
there are no good wars, because they always lead to casualties and suffering. Approving military action means legitimizing war for children as a means of resolving conflicts and seeking good. Today, people and countries must solve their problems through diplomacy, not aggression.
2. It is also important to tell children that we must not hate nations,
whose rulers have decided to throw into war. We should not rejoice in the “successes” in war when it comes to taking human lives and destruction. There were also people on the downed plane that someone loved and waited for. The victims of the war on both sides are human victims – there are no more valuable or less valuable lives
3. Let’s explain the situation in words he understands
to answer his questions specifically, to state the facts briefly and clearly, so as not to leave room for the child to just finish the story using his imagination. If he asks general questions, such as “Will there be a third world war?”, Let’s try to understand how he specifically imagines this threat in order to give arguments to irrational fears. Do not be too emotional and do not go into too much detail, adjust the story to the age and vocabulary of the child, psychologists advise.
4. Let us listen carefully to the child, without interrupting or reproaching him,
that he does not understand or that he is frightened and without belittling his fears. “We need to create a space where children can share their concerns and needs. Because every child is different, we can comply with his or her desire or refusal to speak. But it is important for children to know that their opinion is valuable and their feelings will be accepted, whether they coincide with ours or those of others, “said Christina Nenova, psychologist and coordinator of” Children’s and Youth Participation “in the Children’s Network.
5. The child should not feel guilty for playing in this dramatic situation,
he sees friends and has fun. The child continues to be a child, no matter what happens in the adult world.
6. Children need perspective and hope –
we can reassure them that there is a war going on right now, but the adults are working to end it as soon as possible. It is not in anyone’s interest for the conflict to escalate. We can assure them that in Bulgaria they are protected – our country is part of a strong international alliance – NATO, which includes many countries and if one of these countries is threatened, the others will <210> help. We are not alone.
7. In such moments the child needs physical closeness
calm him down, hug him and tell him he is safe
8. Watch for signs of anxiety –
loss of appetite, sleep, refusal of daily activities. We must keep in mind that anxiety disorders are exacerbated during crises, so if you notice that things are escalating in the child, seek psychological help.
9. It is good to limit the viewing of news programs
and on social media posts. Do not watch or discuss the news in the presence of the child – the smaller it is, the more it must be protected from any crisis news. Children can be horrified by the human disasters and violence they see. In addition – some media are purposefully looking for strong emotional reactions and sensations. Children cannot judge how dangerous they are and immediately imagine a similar situation in their own lives.
10. Keep calm
Even a young child feels the shock and grief of his parents. When a parent is able to give the child a sense of security, he calms down. If you yourself do not feel at ease, postpone the conversation or consider someone else talking to him
11. The situation is once again an occasion to remind of the false news
and misinformation. Give an example with news that has already become clear that it is false, and encourage the child to make a fact check of the information.
12. It is also good in moments like today to show the child by personal example
solidarity and empathy and to get involved with helping the refugees from Ukraine as much as we can.
The role of the teacher is especially important
“When we are in a precarious situation, we all look to the reactions of others and look for answers to questions such as ‘is it dangerous’ and ‘should we be afraid’? This is especially true for children, “said Maria Brestnichka, a psychologist and director of Network Development at the National Children’s Network. “Apart from parents, what they hear from adults at school is very important. If you are a teacher, you have a significant role to play in how the topic is discussed – because it will certainly be discussed, and if left unaddressed by an adult, it can distort and reinforce children’s fears. You can discuss the topic in class, hear what the children think and fear. Your role is extremely important if there is tension in the classroom – special attention is needed if there are children of Ukrainian, Russian or Belarusian origin.