How to talk to your preteen about the Ukrainian crisis.

The world is a pretty scary place at the moment. How do we give our children an explanation as to why Ukraine is experiencing such atrocities? Understandably, we know parents are avoiding touching upon the subject with their preteens. It’s a difficult conversation but it’s one they need to hear. Otherwise, Tiktok and social media will fill their information void with greater fears and anxieties.

So these are our top tips to approach this tricky conversation

Hold the perspective

Children need you to paint the bigger picture for them. With their brains still developing, children lack the cognitive skills and knowledge to process information surrounding the crisis. They also need help with using this information to assess risk- so keep them informed but grounded. It’s important to know about the state of the world but we must remember that we can’t possibly take on every battle or injustice that comes our way. 

Manage their stress 

Emotions are running high for everybody at the moment and children will pick up on the distress and anger that we are putting out into the world. We shouldn’t suppress these emotions but instead, explain to our children what purpose they serve and how to regulate them. Anger gets a bit of a hard time as an unwanted emotion in our society but one of our clients put it perfectly “We need anger to know that something isn’t right. If we didn’t have anger, the Ukrainians would just let the Russians come into their country and say I don’t mind, go ahead”. Insightful, right? 

So, talk through these feelings with them and perhaps teach them this trick using the four elements for when their emotions are a bit too much to handle.

Dr Andrea Shortland from Pocket Family Psychologist talking about techniques to self-soothe.

Work out their role and responsibility

As parents we have little control or power over the state of the world. But we can help our children to work out how they’d like to take an active role. Perhaps your child values knowledge and therefore they may want to watch a documentary on the history of war and different types of political system. Or perhaps they’d like to raise charitable funds for a certain demographic of people they share similarities with ( a friend of mine posted a fundraising link to help diabetics who are unable to get medication from chemists- it’s a problem I’d not yet considered!). 

Tolerate the uncertainty

Reassure your child that as an individual, family and community, you can cope with unpredictable and scary things. Worrying about what we can’t control is futile.

Click here for a free preview of our course ‘Taming your lion’ which aims to help children regulate their big emotions such as anger and anxiety. Children learn to befriend their big emotions, understand why we need them and learn some techniques to control them too!

As always,

Take care

Pocket Family Psychologist

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"Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative"

“Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative. During the second period of lockdown and home-schooling; parents and children found themselves again in a period of upheaval and transition. Many parents and carers were extremely worried about their children’s mental health and their own ability to be present and engaged whilst also playing the role of teacher and care giver. Dr Shortland gave attendees an insight into how many parents were feeling; tips on supporting children and helping them cope whilst studying from home and also managing their mental health. She also helped us realise the importance of taking care of ourselves in order to effectively support our children. It was such a useful session that we realise it was also pertinent for not only children’s mental health but also adults! We will be holding another session with Dr Andrea and MediaCom soon.”

Avelon Thompson, MediaCom (following a parenting workshop)