|Source: How to Talk to Kids About the War in Ukraine:
4 Answers & Tools Parents Need, From a Parenting Educator
By Sam Piha
The coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has dominated TV and social media, resulting in horrific images of buildings exploding in fire, families bloodied and injured from missile attacks, and fearful children and parents attempting to flee to safety. This is being viewed by children and teenagers as well as adults.
Foundation to every afterschool program is promoting a sense of emotional safety and reliable information. We believe this includes how to talk to kids about war and how to decipher real vs. fake news. Below we offer some thoughts and resources to assist afterschool leaders.
Speaking With Kids About the Ukraine War
Below are some tips on how to discuss the Ukraine war:
- First and foremost, educate yourself on Ukraine’s history and the war itself (there are good articles and videos on the internet- be sure they are reliable) and process your emotions first.
- Consider the developmental and age levels of your youth.
- Ask what your children have heard already? How did that make them feel?
- Where did they get this info?
- Validate feelings while stressing safety.
- Ask them if they have any questions about what is going on.
- Respond with honest reassurance & don't discount fears.
- Encourage youth to feel a sense of agency about how they can make a difference.
- Avoid exposure to graphic images & repetitive media coverage.
- Recognize that some children may be at greater risk of distress (especially true of youth who have experienced trauma or a family history of fleeing danger).
(Note: Some of these resources are written for family members and would serve as a good handout.)
- Resilience in a time of war: Tips for parents and teachers of teens
- Teaching Resources to Help Students Make Sense of the War in Ukraine
- How to Talk to Kids About the War in Ukraine: 4 Answers & Tools Parents Need, From a Parenting Educator
- How to Talk to Kids About Ukraine
- How to Talk With Your Child About the War in Ukraine
- I teach high school history. It’s my job to help teens understand the war in Ukraine
- Teachers can offer a safe space for students to talk about the war in Ukraine and help them take action
- Tips for helping young people cope with news about Ukraine and Russia
Source: New York Times
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has also brought with it a deluge of disinformation and misinformation, and fabricated news, images, and video, via social media platforms.
“One big difference with the war in Ukraine is how prominent TikTok has suddenly become in spreading information via video—both real and fake. TikTok is a major source for news for teens and young adults.” - Eisha Buch, Common Sense Media
TikTok Is Gripped by the Violence and Misinformation of Ukraine War,” might be a useful starting point for raising the topic with them, perhaps after first asking students to share some of what they know — or think they know — about the war from their social media feeds.” - New York Times
Abigail Gewirtz, author of How to Talk with Kids About Scary News, advises, “You start by talking about social media. In times of war and threat, social media can be an incredibly valuable tool for people who don’t have access to regular news, like those in Ukraine, to be able to communicate with others. However, as we all know, social media can be a very dangerous source of misinformation, and our kids are vulnerable to that misinformation because they don’t know what’s fact and what’s fiction...and sometimes we don’t either. It’s really important for parents of kids of all ages to help children understand that there is fact and there is hearsay—and for them always to come to you to check the facts.”
- Combating disinformation about the war in Ukraine
- Help for teachers and families to talk to pupils about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how to help them avoid misinformation
- Helping Students Find the Truth in Social Media
- How to Prevent the Spread of Disinformation About Russia's War on Ukraine: A Tip Sheet
- TikTok Is Feeding My Students Fake News About Ukraine. How Can Truth Win?
- TikTok Is Giving America's Kids a Real-Time Look at War Through the Eyes of Ukrainians
- TikTok sees a surge of misleading videos that claim to show the invasion of Ukraine
One way to support kids to help them feel part of the solution is by offering opportunities to express support or “help”. Obviously, any activities should be aligned with the age of the participants. For example, youth could:
- Create pictures or posters to express support or educate others.
- Look for age-appropriate information together.
- Do projects to raise money for charities supporting Ukraine.
- Send pictures or letters to refugee families.
- Middle- and high-schoolers might participate in a peaceful demonstration of support for Ukraine.
- Families can also join together to attend a local Ukrainian vigil or send money to charitable organizations.
“A lot of children want to help—and it’s important to provide ways for them to do so in an age-appropriate way…Turn the problems into ‘what can I do?’ The healthiest thing that helps people cope is action.”- Mary Alvord, PhD, Founder of Resilience Across Borders
Bias, Race and Discrimination
“Some have criticized certain reporting on Ukraine as racist and called attention to story framing and word choices that portray 'the invasion as the sort of thing that happens in poor countries, but not in Europe.' Even just the sheer amount of coverage, critics say, reveals a double standard in how Western media has covered this war compared to conflicts in other parts of the world.” - The Sift: An educator's guide to the week in news literacy, March 21, 2022
It is important to know that reaction to the war in Ukraine is not without controversy. Many feel that the crisis and war in Syria did not attract the same worldwide support. Also, there were reports that people of color did not receive the same treatment while attempting to flee the violence in Ukraine.
“If we decide to help Ukrainians in their desperate time of need because they happen to look like 'us' or dress like 'us' or pray like 'us,' or if we reserve our help exclusively for them while denying the same help to others, then we have not only chosen the wrong reasons to support another human being. We have also, and I’m choosing these words carefully, shown ourselves as giving up on civilization and opting for barbarism instead ... The BBC interviewed a former deputy prosecutor general of Ukraine, who told the network: “It’s very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blond hair … being killed every day.” - Moustafa Bayoumi, The Guardian
- Foreign students fleeing Ukraine say they face segregation, racism at border
- They are ‘civilised’ and ‘look like us’: the racist coverage of Ukraine
- The Russian invasion of Ukraine shows racism has no boundaries
- Fleeing war, facing racism: Refugees from Ukraine meet challenges at Europe's borders
- #AfricansInUkraine: Escaping students describe rejection at border