Opinion

Smith: How do you talk to your kids about the Ukraine war?

Posted 4/22/22

The war in Ukraine still rages on, which has proven a heavy topic to discuss amongst adults. Men, women, and children are in the fight of their lives to save their country and defend their borders

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Opinion

Smith: How do you talk to your kids about the Ukraine war?

Posted

The war in Ukraine still rages on, which has proven a heavy topic to discuss amongst adults. Men, women, and children are in the fight of their lives to save their country and defend their borders.

It seems as though every social media platform timeline shows videos of bombs blowing up maternity wards, children walking for hours to get to the Poland borders for safety, and other graphic material.

If your child has social media or goes to school with kids who do, they likely have some idea of what is going on and have questions.

These questions and the desire to learn more can affect their emotions and their ability to learn. Imagine how distracting it can be for a student trying to focus on new math concepts after watching a graphic video on their social media feed. Never has a war been showcased on social media like this, and it is causing distress among the youth.

What can parents do to ease their minds without painting a pretty picture of what is going on? It can be a fine line, but here are some ways to help your child or student understand what is happening.

First step: know the signs

There is so much happening in the world, and it is affecting your child now more than ever. If your child is around other children who have social media or are talking about the war, they are candidates for anxiety and other forms of emotional trauma. Knowing the signs of mental health problems and how they may be impacting your child can help you understand how to best support them.

When your child begins to show signs of lack of sleep, slipping grades, and an overall demotivation towards life, it is time to think about how to approach the situation without raising the alarm.

What do you say?

Many parents believe that keeping their children in a bubble can protect them from what goes on in the world. Unfortunately, that bubble has been popped by social media. Don’t be afraid to talk to your children because they most likely have some idea of what is going on.

One way to determine how to broach the topic is to frame it with a unified message shared by both parents in a two-parent household. For those in a single-parent household, it could be helpful to make sure your message is aligned with anyone else your child may go to for emotional support.

Being honest is key, but it’s also important to base your conversation on their maturity. Older teens are more likely to understand the details, but what younger children need is reassurance. This conversation isn’t easy, and no two children are the same. Remember, you know your child the best.

Managing social media

One of the main factors that have contributed to the rise in distress amongst children is the accessibility to the war through social media. It is important to monitor what your children are watching on their phones during times like this.

While it can be impossible to completely manage your children’s internet access, there are a variety of technology resources and applications available that can help manage which sites and applications children have access to, such as Bark. Parents can also manage the amount of time their child spends on technology through different applications.

Impacts on education

After overcoming the life-changing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, students are now experiencing heightened emotional stress as they watch this war take place from afar. Children who are staying informed about the Ukrainian conflict and seeing it unfold on social media are likely to experience distress and empathetic feelings for the children. Anxiety and depression can lead to a decrease in children’s energy level, concentration, mental ability, and optimism.

Children need help navigating their emotions. This war is a very heavy topic for all who may be impacted, so it is crucial for parents to take the time to talk to their children about what is happening. As students move from one crisis to another, thoroughly discussing these situations can help them understand the emotions they may be feeling.

Regular conversations with your children will remove the stigma of sensitive topics and help them not feel alone in how they react to situations of this sort. Your family can even develop a game plan for the best ways you can help and show your support for those in Ukraine, such as raising donations.

Editor’s note: Ben Smith is the CEO and creator of Gnosis IQ, an artificial intelligence software that predicts students’ future performance and tracks students’ emotional status throughout the day.

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