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25th Feb 2022

When the world gets scary… how to talk to children about what is happening in Ukraine

Trine Jensen-Burke

How to talk to kids about Ukraine

As parents, it is our natural instinct to protect and shield our children from the sometimes harsh realities and cruelty of the world we live in.

And yet when they ask or when they know something has happened, we need to give them some answers.

In the last few days, many of us with children old enough to have caught the news have been met with difficult questions about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Because even though they don’t sit down and watch BBC’s live news stream with us or stay up to catch the nine o’clock news, children do pick up on snippets of conversation, catch glimpses of disturbing images and see fronts of newspapers as they walk past them.

And while it can be tempting to just play things down or change the topic if they ask, not getting answers to what they are wondering can sometimes make something seem even more frightening to young children.

The fact is that children – even very young children, need honest and age-appropriate answers from adults they trust.

“It’s a natural reaction to want to spare children from learning how the death happened, by making up another explanation, Gianna Daly, head of clinical services at Winston’s Wish, a charity for bereaved children in the UK, has previously said to the Telegraph.

“But when a story… quickly becomes public knowledge, you will probably prefer that the children hear the news accurately and calmly from you rather than from rumour or from another child in the playground.”