How to Talk to Your Kids About the War in Ukraine

During World War II, our grandparents huddled around the radio and caught newsreels before the movies. Our parents watched 24-hour news coverage of Desert Storm on CNN. We witnessed the war in Afghanistan on cable channels and the Internet. Today our children can't help but see and hear more information than ever before about war and global politics.

As much as we might want to shelter and protect our kids from the harsh world, it's on their phones, in their schools, and on the news all day, every day. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, it took several days for the general public to learn about it. When Russia invaded Ukraine last month, the whole world knew within minutes.

We want our children to thrive and flourish as they grow into intelligent, hard-working adults. We don’t want them exposed to a negative reality. But whether we like it or not, they know. War is happening. It's our responsibility to let them know the truth and discuss how to handle it.

Here's how:

Age Difference and Limitations

First off, if you're planning on informing your child, there are age limitations that should be addressed. Every child is different and may require a different amount of detail and explanation than others. Though some children can handle more or less information at a time than others, the standard age for them to accept the concept or idea of “war” is as early as age 8.

Eight to Twelve-year-olds can use a map as a visual. They tend to show a lot of interest in the current war with Ukraine, and they should typically have basic knowledge of Social Studies and History from public school. Most are capable of learning about Russia's attempts to overthrow the government of Ukraine.

Middle & High school young adults are capable of learning all they need to know about the war in Ukraine. Keep in mind, that this will vary with children who have special needs. At this age, they are old enough to follow along with the news and keep up with the war as you do.

Details

Though it may be “cringe-worthy” content for anyone of any age, children may need to hear the not-so-happy side of the story.

Children ages 8+ have learned about deaths through history classes and Corona news. Maybe they've had a pet that has died. At this age, kids are old enough to hear and understand death. They should know what Putin has done, and what he's capable of doing.

They should know how Ukrainians must feel while being bombed on a daily basis. The world can be harsh, and that's why we're standing in to help our allies. Having this talk with them will only aid in their awareness of what is happening in today's news.

Why Teaching History and Current Events is Important

Nothing is more important than explaining why knowledge is power. Children need to understand why we learn history in school. We don't want history to repeat itself. We also know that our youth may, someday, have to handle Russian attacks. Even if war doesn't come to our shores, we've sworn to assist our allies' when they're attacked.

Knowing what happened in the past helps inform and prepare us for the future. It is imperative that young people understand what's currently happening in case of future attacks. By providing this information and encouraging them to support what they think is right, we're preparing them for a safer future.

They Should Know They're Safe

It's important for us to explain that Ukraine is far away, and we are all perfectly safe. The last thing you want to do is cause a panic. Kids have enough on their plate already! Schoolwork, chores, Covid. We don't want to add to that list.

Once they know they're safe, you can move on to explain in words they'll understand. My 11-year-old son was excited to learn more and had so many questions once I'd warned him that Putin was technically “bullying” Ukraine.

Once bullied in school, my son knows this term well. I also explained to him the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship. I didn't leave out the reality of what Ukrainians are experiencing, and that they had to either flee to Poland or hide underground. Giving kids an idea of what's really happening in the world can open their eyes, and encourage them to learn more and ask questions!

Keep them in the Loop

More examples of what to cover specifically would include:

  • Similarities between the U.S. government and the Ukrainian government.
  • Differences between the Russian and American governments
  • Different traits between Vladimir Putin, Ukraine President Zelenskyy, and Joe Biden
  • How one country can cause a worldwide ripple effect
  • Why we support Ukraine
  • The U.S. stopped trading with Russia, and Russia stopped trading with the U.S.
  • Why gas prices have gone up
  • Why so many Ukrainians have fled to Poland
  • Why do some Ukrainians choose to stay and fight for their country
  • Why some women and children are without husbands and fathers

Try asking them what they think may happen next? What do they think will eventually happen to Ukrainians? How long will the war continue?

Engage your children with the facts and history, and get them involved in making predictions, based on the past and current events!

Allow them to watch the news with you. If you are able to make donations, let them witness it firsthand!

Congratulate Them for Listening!

Every kid, young and old, needs encouragement! Tell them “Good job! Thanks for hangin' in there!” Remind them why this information is important, encourage them to ask questions, and continue their history lessons in school. The more they know, the more secure their future will be, and the safer and more aware they'll become.

Ask them what they'd do in this situation if they were president? You might be surprised by their responses!

After all, someday the next generation will be called on to protect our country and innocent lives. Our kids need to be prepared.

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Feature Image Courtesy of Pexels.


Marina Wheeler
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