In the last few years with the pandemic, everyone's been through a time of unseen threat and uncertainty - which humans do not react well too! And for children, whose lives have been greatly shaped by unpredictability, changes, and loss, along with their own early trauma, this is bound to have had an additional impact. And now on top of this, has come the war in Ukraine, and we should not underestimate or minimise the impact of all of this in any way.
Being their main source of safety, care and comfort means you are the ones that children lean into for some sense that it will all be okay. So, let’s start with a few essentials for you.
• Limit your exposure to current world events as they are shared in a way designed to create alarm! Seeing and hearing less of this is a great way to keep you from feeling overwhelmed by things you can do nothing about.
• Steady yourself. The world is wobbling again, so it's normal for you and the children to pick up on a general sense of threat and anxiety that many people are experiencing. Try one super simple thing throughout the day to calm your body as it'll make you feel safer, so they will too. Here's some suggestions from my YouTube Calm and ground on the go videos: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNQvyMbaDQgwwOSxgofvftE2y9mdYOZUn
• Take the pressure off yourself to explain the war or the invasion. In reality, war makes no sense at all and saying this is okay.
Then, of course, there are the fears, needs and questions from the children. As you know better than most, the children you care for and about have already had too many fearful experiences so they may very well be extremely agitated by things they hear at school about ‘the war’.
Some children might want facts about what is going on, so limit these to what feels easier to grasp, and know that facts alone rarely make any of us feel safe. Why? Well, humans are first and foremost emotional and relationship-focused beings. Especially as children, emotions and survival needs run their lives so we need to address fears about the current war in this way, often and, in some cases, repeatedly.
When children present with questions, worries, fears, and behaviours that are linked to these, the most important, but the hardest thing for us rational logical adults to do is to take a few very, very deep breaths and make sure that we are more interested in how they are feeling, rather than slipping into rationally explaining the war or anything else.
You could also share that you go find the dog or the cat and stroke them for a while. Give them simple stuff they can do at home or in school. Make sure they see and hear you model this at home regularly in a calm, quiet way.
Make feelings and a simple calming technique of any kind what you repeatedly model and offer. As you know, this is extra complex for your children so trust the safety they get from your calmness and this simple approach.
“Jane Evans is a childhood trauma and parenting TV and media expert, speaker and trainer. She is the author of How are you feeling today, Baby Bear? Little Meerkat's Big Panic, Cyril Squirrel Finds Out About Love, and Kit Kitten and the Topsy Turvey Feelings - published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers www.thejaneevans.com”